My local Whole Foods has a display of wooden boards for grilling fish set up in front of their seafood counter. You can choose a cedar, maple, or cherry board and then pair it with a compatible fish. The friendly merchant confessed that she was crazy about the cherry plank, but I chose cedar since it matches up admirably with salmon, the fish I am planning to use.
Whatever your selection, when fish is set atop a wooden plank, then placed on a grill (whether charcoal or gas), the wood imparts a lovely smokiness to the seafood. What, I thought, could be better to grill on this long holiday weekend than marinated salmon fillets on a cedar plank. For my recipe (a favorite I created several years ago) I use a simple, yet distinctive marinade of maple syrup, lime juice, soy sauce, and fresh ginger. The ingredients provide, respectively, sweet, tart, salty, and spicy notes that complement the scent of smoked wood.
While the fish is marinating, I’ll soak the cedar plank in water. Then after preparing the grill, I’ll heat the plank for a few minutes, place the salmon on it, and put down the lid. In about 15 minutes, the cedar will have imparted a smoky scent to the fish, which turns a light mahogany color. I plan to serve the fillets right on the plank, with a garnish of chopped cilantro and green onions sprinkled over each. Corn on the cob and a bracing slaw would make fine sides.
Happy Labor Day weekend to all of you!
Grilled Salmon on a Cedar Plank
One or more cedar planks (See note.)
4 salmon fillets, about 1-inch thick and 6 ounces each
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro for garnish
2 tablespoon chopped green onions, white and green parts only, for garnish
4 lime wedges for garnish
1. Soak the cedar plank in water in a roasting or other pan big enough to hold it for 2 hours; leave the plank in the water until ready to grill.
2. Place salmon, skin-side down, in a shallow non-reactive dish. Combine the soy sauce, maple syrup, ginger, lime juice, and garlic in a small non-reactive bowl and whisk to blend. Pour half of this mixture over the salmon, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Marinate at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate salmon and remaining marinade; bring both to room temperature 30 minutes before using.
3. To cook the salmon, prepare a grill for high heat. If you have a grill that
registers the heat inside the grill, the thermometer should read about 350 degrees. Remove the plank from the water and place on the hot grill. Cover the grill; heat for 5 minutes, then turn plank to the other side. The plank may be charred; that’s fine, it will add to the smoky flavor of the salmon.
4. Place salmon, flesh side up, on the plank. Cover grill, and cook until fish flakes easily and is opaque, 15 to 20 minutes. Watch carefully as time can vary depending on the type of grill and the intensity of the heat. Remove and serve the salmon on the plank. Spoon some of the reserved marinade over each fillet. Mix together the cilantro and green onions, and garnish each serving with some of this mixture. Serve each fillet with a lime wedge to squeeze over. Serves 4.
Note: Cedar planks are available in the seafood department of many supermarkets, in cookware shops, and through some catalogs. I found one at Whole Foods about 12 inches long by 6 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick, but they can vary in size so you may need more than one. Many have the directions written on the plank for soaking and using on the grill. If the cedar plank is not too charred after you have used it, you can reuse it.