Seafood Week: Use the Plank!

Continuing our week-long look at fish and seafood, we're taking our fish out to the grill today. Grilling fish can be tricky. It's fairly delicate and cooks so quickly that it's easy to burn it or at least dry it out. It can also end up in the coals if you aren't careful. Or you could take the delicious, easy way out and grill it on water-soaked planks! I love doing this and it's really the only way I grill fish and seafood now. This time around, I'm sharing my method for plank-grilling salmon. Once you've prepared your fish and plank as outlined in the recipe below, your grill should look a bit like this (I added a bunch of mixed peppers because I love having them with almost every meal I make on the grill):

I used a cedar plank, salmon, and a sweet and spicy blend of rub and sauce. You can mix and match the wood you use, the fish or seafood you use (shrimp on skewers laid on a plank makes for an amazing appetizer), and the way you choose to flavor it all. As the grill does its job, you'll notice the plank will discolor near the edges and bow and bend. This is entirely normal. That wood is taking the brunt of the heat and letting your salmon gently cook and take in the flavor of the grill without becoming a burnt mess. Trust, you'll love it:

Finally, when it's time to take your fish off the plank, you might get some choices. Sometimes, it's quite easy to remove the skin along with the fish. I'm a fan of eating the skin when possible, so I try to aim for that. That said, if you aren't a fan or the fish has been cooking long enough for the skin to adhere tightly to the plank, simply slide a spatula between the flesh and skin of the fish and lift it off. Ta da! You've got dinner. When plank-grilling fish, the rub and sauce tend to form a fairly thick, delicious seasoning skin over your fish that's been delightfully imparted with the flavor of your grill and the wood from the plank. If you want, you can set your fish on a serving plate covered in herbs, sliced tomatoes, or other aromatics to help impart additional flavor before they make it to your belly, as shown here with thinly sliced tomatoes:

I love serving planked salmon with rich, hearty wines. Salmon is already a meal that can hold its own against a red wine, but when plank-grilled with an intense rub and sauce, it can handle just about anything! Be adventurous and choose something fun. Sides should help highlight flavors in the main course, so consider dishes featuring a little heat and/or maple syrup goodness. And if it was nice enough to grill, do take advantage of the waning warmth and enjoy a meal like this outdoors!

Cedar Plank Maple-Sriracha Salmon

  • 1 cedar plank (12-20 inches in length and 1/4-1/2 inch thick)
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2-4 salmon fillets (skin on!)
  • 1-2 T. sriracha or other hot sauce
  • 2 T. maple syrup

Completely immerse the cedar plank in water and allow to soak for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Remove the plank from the water when you are ready to grill and gently wipe any excess water from it.

In a small bowl, combine the granulated garlic, smoked paprika, coarse salt, and black pepper to make a simple rub. Generously rub the pieces of salmon on the skinless sides with this mixture. Place the seasoned fish on the plank (skin side down), leaving a little space between each fillet.

Stir together the sriracha and maple syrup to make a sauce and carefully brush the mixture on the salmon. Allow the salmon to rest a bit while you prepare the grill.

Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat. Once the grill is ready, brush any remaining sauce on the fish and place the plank directly on the grill grates. Close the lid and grill for 10-15 minutes, depending on your desired level of doneness. The plank will bow and darken as the heat dries it. Serve the fish hot.

  • Yields: 2-4 servings, depending on the size of your plank and your salmon fillets
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes, plus soaking time

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