I was afraid that this was a bit of gimmick but I am here to tell you that cooking salmon (or any fish) on a plank is delicious. This has become a bit of a craze in the States over the past few years and I was inspired to give it a try as a center piece for a Beltane BBQ. As I live in a weather challenged climate, I felt obligated to exploring plank cooking for both the oven and the BBQ. Additionally, as a former apartment dweller for roughly the past 25 years, I realise it is not only the weather that can disqualify you from owning a BBQ.
This technique is usually credited to the indigenous tribes of the American Northwest but I have found references to both Australian and Scandinavian versions as well. The basic gist is that you can cook tender and succulent food (fish, meats, veg) over an open flame in a way that is not only practical but adds sensational flavour as well.
Although I used the same recipe of a Honey Nut Coated Salmon (recipe below), I prepared the boards differently. For the BBQ soak your plank - covered in water – for at least two hours. For the oven I coated both sides of the plank with vegetable oil and let stand. Make sure that your wood is untreated and has no preservatives. I sourced my from the Scottish Woodland Trust, but you can purchase cedar cooking planks from most Whole Food stores or Amazon. I was using Ash as it is indigenous to Scotland and for heightened Celtic Symbolism in honor of Beltane. You do not need to go to such lengths but Ash is tasty I can assure you! After preparing the planks – preheat your cooking source: 200 C/400F for the oven and Medium High for the BBQ.
Place filets on boards (each plank could have easily held 4 filets) and season with salt & pepper. Spoon some of the honey mustard sauce over the fish,
and cover with breadcrumb mixture – that’s it!
For oven roasting, place directly onto the wire rack. Cook for approximately 20 minutes or until fish is firm but flakes easily.
If using a BBQ place on an upper rack if possible. The board will bend as it has been soaked and you will want to keep a close eye on this process for sure.
The fish cooked in the oven was a delight. It was juicy and flavourful and looked great on the board – much more interesting that a plain old cooking sheet.
But the salmon cooked in the BBQ was AMAZING! The smell, the smoke, the flavour – it makes me swoon just to tell you! At first I was just so overwhelmed from the smoke off the plank charring away that it transported me back in time like the food critic in Ratatouille. All at once I was at summer camp (go Jolis Couers), I was in Wyoming on a NOLS course, and it was 2 am at a Pig Roast.
Let me explain – it is a very rare to smell actual wood smoke in Scotland. If you are far enough out of a city or town to be able to have anything other than a gas fire in your fireplace, you are more likely to burn peat or coal. These materials do not create very much smoke when they burn, rather remain petite glowing red coals that give out quite a bit of heat and only tinge the air with a slightly sharp smell.
Suffice to say, big billowing clouds of wood smoke escaping from the grill was a deeply evocative experience for me. As an added bonus, when you remove the salmon (still on the board) for the table, is gives a fabulous steaming, hissing presentation not dissimilar to fajitas in a Mexican Restaurant.
All in all an exciting, flavourful adventure that I would highly recommend!
- - 4 salmon filets
- - 1 planks - untreated cedar, ash, oak
- - 2 Tablespoons Honey
- - 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- - 2 teaspoons Butter
- - 1/4 cup toasted or dried breadcrumbs
- - 1/4 cup chopped nuts (almonds, pecans or walnuts)
- - 2 Tablespoon fresh chopped Parsley
- - Preheat cooking source - 200 c/400 f for oven, Medium High for BBQ
- - Place salmon filets on plank lightly season with salt & pepper
- - Spoon the Honey Mustard Sauce over fish
- - Top with Breadcrumb Mixture
- - Cook for approximately 20 minutes until fish is firm and flakes easily.
- - Enjoy!