Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cedar Plank Salmon

Recently, I wanted to make Cedar Plank Salmon.  For me, this dish takes me back to my very first trip to the Pacific Northwest, when I went to Seattle for a job interview.  I arrived late in the afternoon and was scheduled to leave the following afternoon.  With little time to see the city, I went straight for the Pike Place Market.  By the the time I got to the market, it was about to close.  My disappointment over missing an opportunity to walk the aisles of this famous market soon faded after I sat down for dinner at a restaurant in downtown Seattle.  I do not remember the name of the restaurant, but I do remember the dish ... it was my first experience eating Cedar Plank Salmon.  

I wanted to make this dish using a recipe from the Pacific Northwest.  Fortunately, during my honeymoon, I picked up a cookbook called The Paley's Place Cookbook.  The Paley's Place is a restaurant in Portland, Oregon, which focuses its cuisine on local, organic and sustainable foods.  Clare and I never made it to the restaurant for a meal, but the cookbook is really, really good. 

I made two changes to the recipe.  In the original recipe, it calls for using a dry cedar plank and allowing the plank to burn around the fish.  However, I think the smell of the cedar wood contributes to the flavor of the overall dish.  So, I soaked the cedar plank for about an hour before assembling the fish and grilling it.  Once put on the grill, the soaked plank will begin to smoke and that smoke will infuse much more cedar flavor into the fish and the onions.  I left the instructions for the original recipe below, but, I would recommend soaking the wood so that you can amplify that cedar flavor in the final dish.

The second change involved the type of salmon that I used for the dish.  The original recipe calls for king salmon, which is by far one the best kind of salmon to use on a Cedar Plank.  However, I did not have access to king salmon.  I used sockeye salmon, which worked just as well.  I would also recommend using coho salmon as a substitute.  All three types of salmon -- king, sockeye and coho -- are wild salmon, which is the type of salmon that has the best health benefits, such as Omega 3.  

The Paley's Place Cookbook at 92-94
Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds of salmon, preferably king salmon, but you can use coho or sockeye salmon
2 tablespoons of Kosher salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
Grated zest of 2 oranges
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 small bulb of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped basil leaves

1.  Prepare the marinade.  In a bowl, mix the salt, brown sugar and orange zest.  Generously rub the mixture on both sides of the salmon.  Cover the fish and refrigerate for two hours.

2.  Prepare the salmon for the grill.  Preheat a grill on medium.  Brush the cedar plank on both sides with three tablespoons of olive oil.  Spread the chopped garlic on the plank the length and width of the salmon fillet.  Place the salmon on top of the garlic and cover evenly with the chopped basil and onion slices.  The onions do not just add flavor, they protect the fish from burning while it cooks. So make sure that the onions cover both the tops and the sides of the fish.  Drizzle three tablespoons of olive oil over the onions.

3.  Grill the salmon. The grill should be hot enough to ignite the plank when you place the plank in the grill.  Let the plank burn around the fish.  Once the plank has burned, cover the grill.  Continue to grill the salmon until medium rare, or 130 degrees Fahrenheit, which should take about fifteen minutes. 


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