A couple of months ago friends took us out to a fun new local restaurant in Rowayton, CT called Sails. There were lots of tempting dishes on the menu, but I quickly spotted my entrée—Cedar Planked Salmon.
I had developed a couple of cedar-plank salmon recipes in the last few years, but it always bugged me that I had to pay so much for a piece of wood that, after one or two uses, I’d eventually throw away.
I also wondered how much I really needed to soak the plank. Most recipes suggest a couple of hours up to overnight. Did it matter? My experience with those little bamboo skewers was that it didn’t. Whether I soaked them quickly or overnight they still charred. So did I really need to think a day ahead to soak cedar for an impromptu weeknight dish like cedar-plank salmon?
I got a great tip from the friend who took us to dinner. He knew the chef and said he used inexpensive cedar shingles from the lumber yard to cook salmon at the restaurant. That was all I needed to get me on the cedar-shingle salmon trail.
I headed straight to my local lumber yard where I did, in fact, purchase a bundle of untreated undercourse shingles for $25—enough to grill about 65 whole sides of salmon.
But did it work? Yes! The wood is thinner than the typical cedar planks designed for grilling, and I found that as long as I ran the boards under running water until thoroughly saturated, they did not need soaking.
Lots of on-line recipes cook the salmon over indirect heat, but I found cooking the salmon quickly over high direct heat, then turning off the heat and letting the residual heat from the grill finish the cooking was the quickest, most efficient way. I also believe the skin, in fact, might prevent the smoke from fully penetrating the salmon (plus who eats wet skin?) so I remove it before cooking.
You can, of course, grill individual fillets or steaks, but these shingles are the perfect size for grilling a side of wild salmon. I also that found grilling a whole side—even for two people–works very well. After a cedar-planked salmon dinner, there were enough leftovers for David and me to serve as a picnic main course, add to creamy pasta with broccoli, and toss in a first-course salad. Plus pre-dinner nibbles—twice!
So find a fellow foodie or two in your area and buy a bundle of untreated cedar shingles. It’s one of the best, quickest ways to get a summer dinner on the table. Who needs a $3.00 plank when a 35-cent shingle does the job?