Culinary adventures with cedar planks

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Cedar plank soaking for hours ahead of time

My latest culinary adventure all started in one of the craziest places in Calgary: Costco. Guys, Costco is crazy. This was a new experience for me. I went with a friend who showed me around. Only, we went on Sunday afternoon. There were so many people there, they didn’t have any carts. Do you know how many people have to be there so there are no carts? We had to wrestle one away from someone who was leaving.

And then you get inside and it is this giant warehouse of random shit. It actually got to the point where I was just pointing at stuff and saying words like: Kayaks! Toilets! Greek yogurt! Costco seems to have everything and nothing. What kind of place sells kayaks but not size 1 diapers? But I see the benefit. The pork tenderloin there was like, literally, the size of my leg. For cheap! I was having fun.

This all leads to me finding some cheap cedar planks, used for smoking stuff in the barbecue. I’d never found these planks before, besides in places like Williams Sonoma for a million dollars. So, since I found them there for approximately seven dollars, I thought I’d go for it.

I’d been wanting to try a cedar plank salmon for awhile, so tonight seemed like the perfect time. The weather is finally starting to turn around, so it seemed like the time to fire up the barbecue.

Maple-Mustard Salmon

  • 1-1/2 lb (680 g) salmon fillet
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper

Cedar2Soak one 12- x 7-inch (30 x 18 cm) untreated cedar plank in water for 30 minutes or for up to 24 hours; place salmon on top.

In small bowl, whisk together maple syrup, mustard, salt and pepper; brush half over salmon.

Cedar3Place plank on grill over medium-high heat; close lid and cook, brushing once with remaining maple mixture, until fish flakes easily when tested, 20 to 25 minutes.

Seems easy, right? But it caused more nail-biting than I thought it would. As I was soaking the board, I was getting more and more nervous that I wasn’t soaking it ENOUGH. The whole thing didn’t fit into the sink, so I was turning it around to get both ends in.

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Excited to get the barbecue going for the first time this season!

Then I put it on the barbecue. And the flames seemed uneasily high. I left it in for about four minutes, then looked outside to see smoke billowing out of the barbecue. Like, good thing it was a windy day, otherwise I swear people might think our apartment was on fire. I gingerly opened the lid and was immediately engulfed in eye-stinging, but really fragrant smoke. The board was surrounded by flames but hadn’t actually caught fire yet. I turned the heat down, shut the lid again and hoped for the best.

That seemed to work, and 20 minutes in the thing still hadn’t caught fire. It brought me to a new dilemma: how to get the thing out of the barbecue? It involved a cookie sheet, some tongs and a lot of cursing, but I managed. The plank at this point was crumbling to ash, so I guess I got it out in time?

The remnants of the experiment: a crumbling board and the skin that didn't want to leave it

The remnants of the experiment: a crumbling board and the skin that didn’t want to leave it

The result, though, was some good fish. Z commented it (uncharitably, I thought) that it was a little dry. I guess the heat was up a little too high. But, the maple made a delicious seasoning, especially at the edges where it had carmelized. Next time, on lower heat, I think it could be a hit. Although who am I kidding … next time were cedar-planking ribs!

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Also, my new favourite food obsession is edamame beans … delicious still in the shell and steamed. A little sea salt sprinkled over it, so you suck off the salt as you suck out the beans. They are so good. Z would consider this sacrilege, but I think they are tastier than chips. And more addictive.

Cedar4Word of the day:

Matrix: something that constitutes the place or point fromwhich something else originates, takes form, or develops

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