After doing a bit of research it seems that the earliest documented recipe for plank cooking appeared in the Boston Cooking School Cookbook in 1910, written by Fanny Farmer. The cooking method itself, however, precedes that by centuries with differing ideas as to wether it was the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest who first used the technique, or in fact early Scandinavian travellers who brought it to America. I like to believe the former I think. No offence intended.
Anyway! Plank cooking is awesome! And is by no means confined to just fish. The fragrant smoke given off, by whichever type of plank you choose, kisses your food of choice with wonderful flavour. Beef, chicken, pork, even fruit and vegetables benefit from this method of cooking. And let’s face it, it’s pretty cool right?
Here’s a really simple recipe to get you started if you haven’t already discovered plank cooking, and another one to try if you have.
4 fresh salmon fillets
120ml maple syrup
A slice of fresh root ginger
Maldon sea salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, thinly sliced
12 Fresh bay leaves (optional)
2 cedar planks measuring 5 x 8″ (or wood of your choice)
Spray bottle containing water.
Prepare your BBQ for indirect grilling at a medium heat 350˚f / 180˚c
Ideally you want to soak your planks in water for at least 2 hours. I prefer a little longer. I’ve heard of people soaking their planks in wine, cider, even sake, but to be honest I think I’d rather stick to drinking those.
For this recipe I used 2 planks (5 x 8″) which were kindly supplied by James at Smokewood Shack . I chose cedar and cherry. Check out his website for everything smoking wood related. It’s my equivalent of a sweet shop.
While the planks are soaking, make up the glaze. Place the maple syrup, Marsala and slice of ginger in a small saucepan with a really good grind of black pepper and a good pinch of salt. Now bring to the boil and reduce by two thirds. You should be left with a syrupy liquid.
Once you’re ready to go, remove the planks from the water. You’ll fit 2 fillets per plank of this size, so lay 3 bay leaves followed by 3 lemon slices onto the planks for each fillet. Then lay the salmon fillets on top and season with salt and pepper.
Place the planks onto the BBQ away from the coals/direct heat and pop the lid on for 10 minutes. Paint the fillets with the glaze and pop the lid back on the BBQ for a further 10 – 15 minutes or until the salmon is just cooked through. The planks should produce a gentle smoke. You may need to spritz them with a little water during the cook if they catch fire. This is what the water bottle is for. If they are well soaked this shouldn’t happen, but better to be safe.
Once cooked, remove from the grill on their planks and do your best not to devour them before you serve with whatever accompaniments you like. Try them with buttered new potatoes and grilled asparagus or on a bed of couscous or rice. They’re also fantastic cold and flaked over a green salad.