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Gene’s Northern California Planked Salmon

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

I don’t think I could write a cookbook without a Gene Mattiuzzo recipe somewhere within its pages. Gene and his wife, Sue Ann, have been good friends since I first met them seven years ago Gene is the unofficial “mayor” of Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg, California, and has taught me a great deal about seafood from the north coast of California up through British Columbia. Here’s his take on what is trendy for the rest of us and old hat to folks along that coastal area.

NotesPlanking Fish:

Planking fish has become wildly popular in the past few years. It’s actually the original “barbecue” of the Northwest. This method has been widely used since the nineteenth century for meats and poultry as well. It adds a special flavor and a subtle smoke, just as if you had a large smoker with a whole pig and some oak and hickory wood. Start with cedar but then try other woods like cherry, maple, and especially alder. Large supermarkets and fishmongers as well as kitchenware stores now carry a ready supply of the planks. If you buy planks at a home-improvement store, get them from the grilling section of the store, not from the roofing or lumber section, and make sure they are not treated with pesticides or other chemicals. Planks can be washed and reused, but three uses is probably the max you’ll get out of one plank. All kinds of fish and shellfish are great on a plank. Salmon is the most common, but try halibut, sea bass, and tuna as well. I’ve even tried oysters on planks with neat results. Shrimp and large sea scallops work nicely too.

Serves6

Cooking Methodgrilling

CostInexpensive

Easy

Total Timehalf-day

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Equipmentgrill

Mealdinner

Taste and Textureherby, savory, smoky

Ingredients

  • ½ cup snipped fresh dill
  • ½ cup chopped shallots
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 scallion, chopped (white and green parts)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (not pancake syrup)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Six 6- to 8-ounce center-cut skin-on salmon fillets, pin bones removed
  • 6 cedar planks, soaked in water for about 4 hours(see notes)
  • Kosher salt
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Instructions

  1. Combine the dill, shallots, garlic, scallion, pepper, oil, maple syrup, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Use your hands to mix it thoroughly.

  2. Generously spread this mixture over the flesh side of each fillet. Let the fillets sit at room temperature until your grill is ready.

  3. Oil the grill racks. Preheat your grill using all burners set on high and with the lid closed for 10 to 12 minutes.

  4. Take the cedar planks from the water and season them with salt. Place them on the grill, close the lid, and let them heat until they start to smoke and crackle, usually about 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on the cedar planks while they are heating. Sometimes they tend to catch on fire, and you might want to have a spray bottle filled with water handy to control this. Turn the heat down to medium and place the salmon on the planks, skin side down. Close the lid and cook without turning the fillets for about 12 minutes. This will give you a medium doneness; the fish will still yield to the touch. When the salmon is done, remove the planks from the grill and transfer the salmon to a platter. Serve immediately with the lemon wedges.

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