Reader! I’ve been neglecting you. It wasn’t intentional, I promise. You see, I’ve been in San Antonio, TX for the past several days at a conference for work, and I sadly didn’t get myself organized enough to have posts ready before I left. I guess I naively thought I would have some spare time while I was there to whip something together – I already had the photographs from the recipes I made last weekend – but I barely had any spare time! None, actually, except to sleep and even that was scarce!
So my apologies as the blog has been a bit of a ghost town this week. I have some delicious recipes all ready to share now that I’m home and can catch my breath, but first I would like to say that San Antonio was a lovely town. We checked out the Alamo (obviously), and the River Walk is so pretty! For those unfamiliar (as I was until three days ago) the river that runs through downtown has picturesque pathways on either side that are lined with bars and restaurants. We got lost a number of times, but at least the scenery was interesting while we wandered aimlessly.
On to today’s recipe. I need to give a shout out to my husband, who basically made this entire recipe while I photographed it (and ate it, of course). He is in charge of the barbecue, and this is a recipe we probably make about once a week all summer. It’s perfect for fast, casual weeknight dinners: while he is in the backyard tending to the grill, all I have to do is make a salad and crack open a bottle of wine and dinner is ready in no time flat.
My husband has never been a fish lover. In fact, when we first started dating, he wouldn’t eat any fish at all because he said it tasted “too fishy.” I see what he means, since most fish we get here has been frozen at some point in its journey from the sea, which results in a slightly fishier flavour than fresher fish. However, trips to places like Maui and Vancouver helped us realize that he actually loves fresh fish (hooray!) so I can now sneak some high-quality semi-local seafood into our diet. He still doesn’t like the smell of cooking fish in the house, which led us to the barbecue and eventually to the beloved cedar plank.
You can buy cedar planks at fish markets and some grocery stores, but don’t do it if you can help it! They tend to be expensive, and all we do is go to the lumber store (a la Home Depot or its equivalent) and buy a couple of 1×6-inch boards (or a similar size) that we bring home and cut into shorter lengths with a saw. I think you could probably even get the lumber guys to cut yours down if you don’t have access to power tools. This way, we spend barely anything at all and get enough planks in one trip to last us all summer.
Smoking salmon (or trout) on the barbecue is so simple! There are just a few tricks to learn and you’ll be an expert in no time. For instance, make sure you soak your plank for at least two hours before you plan to use it; this will prevent it from burning up completely when it hits the grill. We will often stick the plank in the sink in the morning and let it soak all day.
Note that the output from this recipe will be a piece of cooked salmon fillet that has been infused with rich, smoky flavour, and won’t result in the thinly-sliced smoked salmon like you might find on a brunch table or in a deli with a bagel and cream cheese. It’s simply a nice flavour alternative to regular barbecued salmon, and the recipe I’ve shared below helps keep the fish incredibly moist and tender.
Wow, this is a long post! I guess I have a lot to say today. I’ll wrap things up so you can get back to your day, but with one final tip. The sugar-spice rub I’ve listed below melts into the fish as it cooks, creating an almost candied top to the fish. We love the simplicity of the brown sugar, salt, and pepper, with just a hint of heat from the pinch of chili flakes. If that doesn’t appeal to you, or you have a favourite salmon rub, feel free to use the smoking technique but customize the flavour to suit your taste. Also, the curing step is optional, but we’ve found it makes the fish stay even more moist and juicy. Just make sure you rinse off the salt really well and pat the fillet dry.
Alright I’m stopping. Yikes, some days I stare at the screen and can’t think of two words to string together; today I am suffering from the opposite affliction! I should get out of town more often.
- 1 cedar plank, approximately 18 inches long (cut from a 1x6-inch board)
- ½ cup coarse sea salt
- 500 g (about 1.1 lb.) salmon fillet (steelhead trout works too), skin on
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- Soak plank in water for at least 2 hours, ideally for 8 hours or more. The longer the better!
- To cure the salmon, cover flesh side of the fillet completely with the coarse sea salt and set aside to cure for 20 minutes. Rinse well, discarding salt, and pat fillet dry. Slice the fillet into four equal pieces, cutting through the flesh of the fish but not the skin (this is optional, but it makes serving a lot easier!).
- In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle mixture evenly over salmon fillet, covering completely. You may have extra rub left over; discard extras or reserve for another use.
- Preheat barbecue to medium heat. Place soaked plank over direct medium and close the BBQ lid. The plank will begin to smoke and char after about 5-10 minutes.
- Turn the plank over and lay the prepared fillet on the smoked/charred side of the plank. Close the BBQ lid and let the salmon cook until the salmon is cooked and the rub has melted into the surface, about 15-20 minutes. Try not to open the lid too often, as that will allow the smoke to escape. Note that cook time may vary based on the thickness of the fillet. Serve immediately.