Cedar-Planked Salmon

So buttery soft and flavorful, we concurred that this was probably the best salmon we’d ever prepared. In fact, we completely forgot about the horseradish-chive sauce until after we finished the meal! As Russ commented, no worries, we’ll just have to grill some again real soon before that sauce goes bad… no problems with that thinking…

Cedar-Planked Salmon with Lemon-Pepper Rub and Horseradish-Chive Sauce is one of those uncomplicated Make It Tonight Fine Cooking recipes. Grilling on soaked cedar planks has a lot of benefits: the planks char lightly, creating cedar smoke that delicately perfumes the food, and fish doesn’t stick to the grill grates because it’s on the planks. Who doesn’t like that aspect?

Plus, the spice rub—a simple mixture of salt, cracked black pepper, lemon zest, fresh thyme, and a bit of sugar—pairs really well with the cedar-smoke flavor. Next time we plan to double the spice rub, it was sooo good. Company-worthy for sure! To round off the meal, we served simple corn on the cob and grilled tomatoes with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette and a touch of sea salt.

Don’t throw out your cedar planks when you’re done grilling, they are reusable (if they are not too charred or warped.) Scrub off any residue with hot water—no soap—rinse well and wrap in a plastic bag while still wet. Store in the freezer, thaw overnight in the frig before using again.

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While the salmon rested after grilling, we grilled some halved plum tomatoes then drizzled with a balsamic glaze and a touch of sea salt.

BTW, because it’s a simple technique, it’s easy to grill two fillets at once and use the leftover fillet within the next couple of days in a salad or sandwich. Since it was just the two of us, we had leftovers from only one fillet.

Ingredients

For the salmon
  • 1 Tbs. grated lemon zest, minced
  • 1 1/2tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 2-lb. boneless, skin-on salmon fillets (preferably wild and no longer than 15 inches), pin bones removed
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
For the horseradish-chive sauce
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche (sour cream is not a subsitute)
  • 3 Tbs. minced fresh chives
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. prepared horseradish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

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The salmon is rubbed with olive oil and then with the spice mixture before grilling.

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We used two cedar planks for our salmon. Make sure to angle the thin side of the fish away from the heat source. Check the temperature in the thick part of the salmon flesh.

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After the salmon is removed from the cedar planks, let it rest on a platter for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Directions

Soak the cedar planks in water to cover for at least 1 hour. Drain the planks.

Prepare the sauce

In a small bowl, stir the crème fraîche, chives, and horseradish. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate.

Prepare the salmon
  1. In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest, thyme, sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 Tbs. pepper.
  2. Rub the mixture together with your fingers until the zest is distributed throughout.
  3. Rub the salmon fillets on both sides with the olive oil and then set each fillet skin side down on a plank.
  4. Sprinkle the fillets with the lemon-pepper mixture, dividing it evenly. Gently rub the seasoning into the fillets.
  5. Let stand at room temperature while the grill heats.
Cook the salmon
  1. Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for indirect cooking with high heat: On a gas grill, heat all burners on high; then turn off all but one burner just before cooking the salmon; on a charcoal grill, bank the coals to two opposite sides of the grill.
  2. Arrange the planks over the cooler part of the grill, positioning them so that the thickest part of the fish is closest to the heat source.
  3. Cover the grill and cook until the thickest part of each fillet registers about 135°F on an instant-read thermometer, 20 to 35 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets. The planks may smoke a bit (this is fine) and will become very aromatic.
  4. Let the fillets rest on the planks for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
  5. Cut the salmon fillets crosswise into serving portions and transfer to individual plates. Serve with the sauce.
Make Ahead Tips

The sauce may be made up to 1 day ahead, and refrigerated, covered.

Leftovers

Cool any leftover salmon completely, wrap well, and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

By Dawn Yanagihara-Mitchell

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