cedar plank salmon with spearmint sauce
Have you wondered if all we ever eat around here is salad and vegetables and the occasional dessert? no, no, not so! During salmon season (I’m almost embarrassed to say) it’s on our table maybe as much as once a week. Our local newspaper’s food section had a wonderful-sounding salmon recipe last week that I was itching to try. We had a pot brimming with spearmint begging to be crushed and its aromas set free. It was fated.
This dish was so beautiful, so incredibly aromatic that (and now I truly am embarrassed) I was far too impatient to take photos of it. There was going to be no stage-setting. No turning it this way and that and getting the light just so. There was going to be no waiting. I mean none! So here you have it folks. Just as it came off the grill and its fragrant sauce was ladled on. Just before we gobbled it all up, smacking our lips and planning when we’d eat it again next…
This dish was, to my mind, absolutely perfect as it was. No changes were made to the original recipe, other than to halve it since we weren’t feeding a crowd. Therefore, we owe a debt of thanks to chef David Padberg of Portland’s Park Kitchen for the recipe. I’d hug him if he’d have it!
Salmon fillets steeped in the aromas of cedar smoke and steam, then ladled with a variation on salsa verde, made with fresh spearmint leaves. An incredibly delicious flavor combination.
(I hope you won’t be off-put by the addition of chopped anchovies to the sauce. Those and the capers add the perfect bit of salt & fish to complement the salmon…and their flavors were not at all over-bearing. The garlic and hot chili seeds added the perfect hint of heat. The lemon zest – oh you know! Let’s get on with it…
(I’ve halved the recipe for you below as most won’t be feeding 10 to 12. The above-pictured salmon fillet was 1 pound and we had sauce left over. It fed 2 generously – Guinea Pig loves his salmon - with enough left over for lunch the next day.)
Cedar Plank Salmon with Spearmint Sauce
(5 to 6 servings)
- 3 anchovies, finely chopped (if using salted anchovies, rinse them thoroughly first)
- ½ cup tightly packed fresh spearmint, finely minced
- ½ cup tightly packed fresh parsley, finely minced
- 2 Tablespoons capers, finely minced
- ¼ cup finely minced shallots
- Grated zest of about 1½ lemons
- 2 smallish cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
- 1 untreated cedar plank
- 2 pound whole salmon fillet
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1½ teaspoons firmly packed brown sugar
To make the sauce: In a medium bowl, mix together the anchovies, herbs, capers, shallots, lemon zest, garlic, red pepper flakes and olive oil. Chef Padberg says to then add lemon juice to taste and allow sauce to sit for at least 1 hour for flavors to meld before serving. I let the sauce sit for quite some time before adding the juice. I waited to add the lemon juice until the salmon went on the grill as I didn’t want the vibrant green to change. Makes nearly 1 cup of sauce.
To make the salmon:
Soak the cedar plank in water for 4 hours or more so they don’t burn on the grill.
When you’re ready to grill the fish, preheat the grill to medium-low (about 300 to 325ºF.) If using charcoal, be sure that the coals are no longer flaming but showing white ash as you don’t want the planks to catch on fire.) (If you’ve waited to add the lemon juice to the sauce, do so now.)
Place the salmon, skin-side down, on top of the soaked plank. Evenly sprinkle with the salt and brown sugar, Place the planks on the preheated grill and close the grill’s lid.
Cook the fish until the thickest part is barely opaque in the center. Using an instant-read thermometer, temperature should register about 135ºF. Depending on the thickness of the salmon, this will take about 25 to 35 minutes. The edges of the plank will be charred, but the fish will remain tender and juicy, and soft to the touch in the center.
Serve atop the cedar plank or transfer to a platter and serve with the spearmint sauce and wedges of lemon.
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To print the recipe, click here.
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