Years ago there was a great seafood restaurant in Port Washington, WI; a town on Lake Michigan about forty miles north of Milwaukee. It was called the Smith Bros. Fish Shanty. In its day, the Shanty was a fantastic restaurant where they served fish freshly caught from the lake, as well as other seafood, and every table in the place had a great view of the harbor and Lake Michigan itself.
One of the reasons we loved the Fish Shanty was because of the way that they prepared their fish: grilled on planks of wood. According to rumor, some seventy years ago there was a wooden shack on the property where the fish were cleaned and prepared for the kitchen. This shack was destroyed by a fire, and as the fireman were putting out the blaze they noticed a rather pleasant and tantalizing aroma coming from the rubble, rather than the awful smell they typically associated with fires. Picking up a few charred boards, they discovered some of the fish that had been in the shack at the time of the fire -- now fully cooked. Given the delicious smell, they decided to give it a try... And the rest is history.
Cooking fish on wood planks is easy to do and you will really enjoy the resulting taste and texture of the fish. Since we are featuring delicious Atlantic Salmon steaks for only $4.99 lb this week, I thought that you might enjoy learning how to plank grill them yourself.
This method allows the fish to steam gently in the heat of the grill, staying incredibly tender and moist. It also picks up smoky flavors from the grill and woodsy flavors from the cedar, along with whatever was used to soak the planks. You can pick up cedar planks at any lumber yard or big box hardware store. I also found a web site that offers them for sale along with other fish grilling items... http://www.nwplank.com/Our-Products.html
Here is what you will need to get started:
- Salmon fillets, ideally with the skin on
- Olive oil to coat
- Salt & Pepper
- Lemon juice
- Minced fresh dill
The first step in the process is to soak your cedar planks. They need to be soaked for a minimum of two hours; four hours, ideally. One tip I learned if you have freezer space available is to soak as many planks as you have and wrap them in plastic (or place them in large freezer bags) and store them in the freezer. This lets you avoid the two to four hour wait when you are in the mood for grilled fish.
When you are ready to grill your salmon, light your charcoal or gas grill and get the grill to a temperature of 350°F, or a medium heat-setting. When the grill is at the correct temperature, lay enough cedar planks on the grill to give yourself space to arrange all the salmon you will be cooking. Arrange the planks in a single layer so that they are all in contact with the grill grates, but don’t butt them tight. Allow space on the sides to allow for good heat and air flow.
Lay the salmon skin side down on the planks. Baste the salmon with olive oil and season it with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and the minced dill. Cover the grill.
Cook for 12 - 15 Minutes; start checking the salmon for doneness after about 12 minutes. Small fillets will cook more quickly than larger cuts. The salmon is done when it is uniformly pink in the center.
Once cooked, take the cedar planks with the salmon off the grill and place the planks on a cutting board. Using a thin spatula, gently separate the skin from the salmon. The skins should stick to the boards and come away easily. Use a sharp knife to cut the salmon into portions and serve immediately.
There is no need to throw away the cedar planks after your meal as they can be reused several times. You can continue to use the planks until they become overly charred, cracked, or impossible to clean. Scrub off the skin and put them away, or go ahead and re-soak them and freeze them for next time.
Note: I want to give credit to a very good food website www.thekitchn.com where I found the images used in this article. http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-grill-salmon-on-a-cedar-152412