Friday, November 20, 2009

Potlatch Cedar Plank Salmon

No offense, Nemo, but I hate fish.

The only problem is the my wife and the boys love it so I have to make it from time to time. Tonight was one of those times. Cedar Planked Salmon is a very popular dish and it's one of my family's favorites.

The first step is prepping your cedar plank. You need to soak it in water for at least two hours so it won't burst into flames during the cooking process. I buy my planks from food retailers. If you get yours from a lumber yard, MAKE SURE THEY ARE UNTREATED pieces of wood. You don't want to be poisoning your family with heavy metals and poisons, do you? [Don't say yes, if you do, I don't want to be an accessory to a crime.]

Another tip: Wood floats in water (as do witches and ducks). No really. So weigh it down with a heavy pot.

My favorite seasoning for salmon is "potlatch seasoning". I first found this seasoning in the plentiful forests of Williams-Sonoma which is where I imagine the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest first found it for their Potlatches, an annual ceremony much like Thanksgiving.

Williams - Sonoma's version is very good, but if you want to make your own, Bobby Flay's version seems to be very close in the ingredients and texture, I just add a bit of dried tarragon to his recipe:
  • 4 parts kosher salt
  • 3 parts each chili powder and black pepper
  • 1 part each ground cumin, crushed red pepper flakes, celery salt, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano
Place the salmon fillet skin side down and season your salmon liberally with the potlatch seasoning.

Top with thin slices of lemon and place over direct heat on a 350-400f grill. The plank will serve as your indirect barrier and start to smoke from the bottom up, but not burn.

Cook for 20 minutes with the grill lid closed. You can check with a temp probe for an internal temp of about 140f, but I know it's done with you start to see the fish oils start to leach out and turn white like this:

The fish will be perfectly cooked and flaky.

If your fish skin sticks to the plank, don't worry. Just use a thin spatula to separate the fish and remove to a platter. It should come apart easily.

The odd thing is that cedar really sucks as a smoking wood. It's not a hardwood or fruit wood and it contains resins. It's offensive if you ask me. Want proof? Why do you use cedar wood for closets? Because it repels bugs.

Fortunately, you aren't really "smoking" the salmon here, you are grilling it on a partially burning plank of wood. You aren't exposing it to a high "dose" of smoke for a long period of time (all you toxicologists, industrial hygienists, pharmacologists, and medical personnel will appreciate the dose/response relationship thingy).

But if you can find them, alder wood planks are a much better option. It's a milder and more appropriate smoke flavor.

When I make fish for the family, I don't eat any. Is there a dish that you can't stand but you make it for others? If so, what is it and do you eat any of it, other than to taste for seasoning?


  1. Mine is the reverse. Practically everything I make, my wife and daughter won't eat. More meat for me!

    Hope things are good in the Kentucky Groves

  2. You hate FISH? You HATE fish?? YOU hate fish??? But YOU are from Florida. YOU hate fish? REALLY? I am am shocked... get thee to California. I'll take care of that small personality dysfunction, quick. GREG

  3. This looks good. Actually, I can't think of anything I don't like. There have been a couple of recipes I served that I wasn't crazy about that my husband raved over. I just conveniently don't make them again and he forgets about them. Does that count?

  4. I cook for others desires all the time.. you and me are the good guys! Although that sockeye salmon that you didn't eat- well happy to help you get rid of it! Beautiful!

  5. The fish looks great! However, I was told by an owner of one of the more credible fish markets in the US, that once the salmon begins to leach out the white oils it's overcooked! I don't know if it's true, but that's what the man said. And I listen to what the man said..

  6. Cooking salmon this way is pretty popular in my neck of the woods, and I've had it several times. It's fabulous! I think yours looks pretty fabulous, too!

  7. When we lived in Seattle, this was pretty much the way salmon was cooked and served! As for a dish I HATE, eggplant parmesan. Due to an unfortunate culinary experience, eggplant should not look like road kill squashed frogs!

  8. Shhh, I secretly avoid salmon, and I have tons of it in my freezer, all else love it with a purple passion (what does that mean btw)...otherwise this is a brilliant post...want to repel pests while having a drink at bar...stuff your bra with cedar chips, works every time!

  9. Great looking piece of fish - shame you're missing out on it - have you considered therapy for your problem. :)

  10. Well Chris this looks wonderful, but I'm with you I don't really like fish. I will eat it but don't really enjoy it. Not to say I don't like seafood - give me shrimp, crab, lobster any day. I love all kinds of seafood just not much of a fan of fish itself.

  11. I hate fish, I live in California, I am of Japanese descent. Still, Chris, nice job on that salmon, I have always thought the white stuff has a lot to do with the cut of the fish.

  12. Really? You hate fish. And yet you still make such glorious salmon for your wife and kiddies. Can I show this to my husband? He seriously needs some improvement.

  13. Chris, I'm with you on the fish thing. For me it needs to be battered and deep fried to be good. So while your salmon on planks looks wonderful, I'm afraid I have to pass, thanks. Have any of those Fire Roasted Srirachi wings left?


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