Dear Up in Smoke Reader,
There’s a perception out there that grilling on aromatic slabs of wood is a recent bit of gimmickry, or maybe a “get-rich-quick” scheme cooked up by a salmon fisherman and a logger over a campfire and beers.
Not only does this technique have an ancient precedent in North America, but it is one of the most fail-safe, flavorful methods we’ve found for cooking fish and other smoke-worthy foods on the grill.
If you haven’t added planking to your grilling repertoire, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. It will reinvigorate your end-of-the-summer barbecues. Below is everything you need to know to get started, including some fascinating historical background and sizzling new recipes from Steven.
By the way, we’d love to hear what you think of the experience. Post your thoughts, questions, or especially, any terrific recipes or photos you’d like to share with us on the Barbecue Board.
Yours in great grilling,
Up in Smoke
First, a little history.
As early as 4000 B.C., native aboriginal tribes in the Pacific Northwest were fastening salmon to split cedar poles (called piquin sticks), securing them with slender cedar pins, and propping them at an angle next to roaring alder wood fires. (For a detailed description of the set-up, see the essay on Tillicum Village on page 456 of BBQ USA . This attraction, on Blake Island in Puget Sound, hosts over 100,000 visitors a year to its exhibits and authentic Pacific Northwest Indian salmon bakes.)
Indians on the East Coast, meanwhile, used a similar method to roast the once-plentiful shad (a succulent but bony fish related to the herring). In this case, they used locally plentiful oak poles or planks, however. Interestingly, this is the model used for the famous political rally and shad bake held each spring in Wakefield, Virginia.
Planked fish baked in an oven was served in hotels in the Pacific Northwest during the latter half of the 19th century. Recipes for this preparation appeared in cookbooks by Eliza Leslie in 1857, and by Fannie Farmer in 1896.
This is where the trail goes cold. Someone, somewhere, in the last 60 years
had the brilliant idea to try plank cooking in a covered grill. We just don’t know for sure who deserves the credit (do you?), but we’re sure glad someone thought of it.
In any case, it’s undeniable that planking is one of the hottest trends in grilling today. Here are some of the reasons:
Though the combination of salmon and cedar propelled plank cooking into the spotlight—the cedar’s subtle astringency mixes perfectly with fattier fish. Other candidates for planking from the seafood counter are scallops, shrimp, sea bass, and trout.
Experiment, and you’ll find other foods are suitable for grilling, too. On page 54 in BBQ USA, there’s a recipe for plank-grilled Camembert cheese with pesto sauce.
And Nancy thinks the technique would be great applied to Brie and the Grilled Pineapple Ginger Salsa on page 62.
Again, be sure to post any questions or success stories (pictures optional) to the Barbecue Board There’s already been a lot of discussion about planking. Click here to see one of the threads or search the site for all of them.
From now until September 15, receive a 10% discount on Steven Raichlen’s Best of Barbecue Cedar Grilling Planks in two sizes: Order two 7 by 14 inch cedar planks and also receive a can of Steven’s Mediterranean Herb Rub; or buy four 7 by 7 inch cedar planks perfect for individual portions. (The idea for them came to Steven when he had to feed 300 people at a food festival, and wanted a dramatic presentation.) Go to the Barbecue Store and input the code UPNSMOKE003 to claim your discount.
Method: Indirect grilling on planks
Advanced preparation: at least 2 hours for soaking the planks
6 salmon steaks (each about 1 inch thick and 4 to 6 ounces)
2 tablespoons sesame oil or olive oil
Miso Glaze (recipe follows)
Fresh basil or shiso leaves (the latter is a Japanese herb also called perilla or beefsteak leaf), optional
You’ll also need: 6 individual cedar grilling planks, each 7 by 7 inches (see Note), soaked for 2 hours in water to cover, then drained
1. Rinse the salmon steaks under cold running water, then blot them dry with paper towels. Brush sesame or olive oil on one side of each steak. Place one salmon steak, oiled-side down, at a diagonal on each cedar plank.
2. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-high and make the glaze.
3. When ready to cook, spread the glaze mixture evenly over the top of the salmon steaks. Place the salmon steaks on their planks in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat, and cover the grill. Grill the salmon until cooked through and the glaze is golden, 20 to 30 minutes. To test for doneness, insert an instant-read meat thermometer through the side of a salmon steak: The internal temperature should be about 135 degrees F. Another test is to insert a slender metal skewer in the side of the fillet for 20 seconds: It should come out very hot to the touch.
4. Transfer the planks and the salmon steaks to heatproof plates. Garnish each with a sprig of basil or a shiso leaf, if desired, and serve.
1/2 cup white miso (see Note)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (preferably Hellmann’s)
5 to 6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon white pepper (optional)
Whisk the miso, mayonnaise, sugar, lemon zest, and white pepper (if desired) in a bowl until smooth. (If the miso is particularly stiff, as some brands are, thin it a bit with 1 to 2 tablespoons of warm water, sake, or mirin.)
Note: Individual cedar planks are available from the Barbecue Store . (Don’t forget to claim your 10% discount. See details above.) If using planks from a lumberyard, make sure they are untreated. White miso is available in Asian markets and in the ethnic section of some supermarkets, or you can purchase it online from www.asianfoodgrocer.com, phone 888.482.2742.
Method: Indirect grilling on a plank
Advance preparation: 2 hours for soaking the plank
6 to 8 fresh dill sprigs plus extras for garnish
4 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
1 trout, about 24 ounces (or 2 16 ounce trout), cleaned
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, 1 thinly sliced, 1 cut into wedges for serving
2 slices bacon, each cut in half crosswise
You’ll also need: 1 14 by 7 inch cedar plank, soaked in water to cover for 2 hours then drained (see Note)
1. Finely chop 2 or 3 of the dill sprigs, discarding stems, and blend them into the butter. Reserve remaining sprigs of dill.
2. Rinse the trout, inside and out, under cold running water, then blot it dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Make 3 or 4 diagonal slashes to the bone in each side of the trout (this speeds up the cooking and allows for better absorption of the flavors). Generously season the trout inside and out with salt and pepper. Smear half the dill butter on the inside of the trout; half on the outside, placing most of the butter on the top side. Lay trout on the plank. Place several lemon slices inside the cavity. Lay dill sprigs on top of the lemon slices. Lay the bacon pieces on top of the trout running slightly on the diagonal.
3. When ready to cook, set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-high. Lay the plank with the trout in the center of the grate, away from direct heat, and cover the grill. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes. To test for doneness, insert an instant read meat thermometer in the side of the fish; the temperature should be about 135 degrees.
4. Carefully transfer the plank to a heatproof platter and garnish with remaining sprigs of dill and lemon wedges.
Note: Cedar planks this size are available from the Barbecue Store . (Don’t forget to claim your 10% discount. See details above.) If using a cedar plank from a lumberyard, make sure it is untreated.
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