Summer Recipes Continued: Cedar Planked Salmon

This dish has long been a summer favourite of ours. In the interest of full disclosure, I take no credit for this recipe — this version of it (there are likely hundreds) originated with my Dad, who got it who knows where.   If you haven’t yet tried grilling salmon or any other fish on a cedar plank, you should.  The cedar imbues the fish with a sweet, smoky flavour, and your kids will find it highly amusing that you’ve cooked dinner on a piece of wood.

As long as you remember to soak your cedar plank in advance, this dinner comes together in minutes.  Be sure to get the freshest WILD salmon you can find — the fine folks at the Vancouver Aquarium’s OceanWise program can tell you why you should avoid the farmed Atlantic salmon that you so often find at your local fish counter. A nice wild sockeye will do.

Summer is the time for wild salmon, so treat yourself.

What you need:

  • One length of cedar, approximately 7 inches by 15 inches. Grocers and fish counters often sell planks at ridiculously inflated prices. You can use clean, untreated cedar from your hardware store — just be sure to give it a good scrub first
  • A side of fresh wild salmon, skin on. A side will usually feed 5-7 people, depending on the variety of salmon you get
  • vegetable oil, for brushing
  • kosher salt
  • half a cup of fresh dill, minced
  • 1 half of a red onion, finely diced
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • a spray bottle filled with water, for safety reasons

Important: About 6 hours before you want to eat, set your plank in a basin of water to soak. We’ve soaked for less than 2, and the smoke that emanated from the board made us all very nervous.

Method:

Preheat your barbeque.

Prepare the board: Take your board and pat it dry. Brush cooking surface of the plank with oil.

Prepare the fish: Generously sprinkle the plank with the kosher salt — it will seem like a lot of salt, but don’t skimp.

Lay your salmon skin-side down on the plank. If the tail end is thin, fold it under so that the fish is of uniform thickness throughout. I like to cut my salmon into serving-sized pieces before cooking, for the sake of convenience.

Cover the fish with the dill and onion.

Set the plank on the grill, close the lid, and cook the fish for 12-15 minutes, or until it easily flakes with a fork. I prefer my salmon on the slightly undercooked side, but your taste might vary.

Keep the water bottle on hand in case the board catches fire. I find that cooking the salmon on indirect heat by turning off the burner right under the plank keeps flareups to a minimum, but safety should be your priority.

When done, remove the salmon from the board, remove the skin, and serve with freshly cracked pepper and lemon, or a dill-mustard sauce, if you’re so inclined. We had it with grilled fava beans on the day that the photo, above, was taken.

If dill and onion aren’t your thing, we’ve had great success with this recipe too.

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