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?