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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

the Salmon:

  • 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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47 Comments Post a comment
  1. Fantastic recipe and lovely pictures. Never apologise for anchovies and capers – I would miss them terribly. Love the idea of the cedar plank.

    August 3, 2012
    • Cedar boughs were traditionally used by our West Coast Nstive Americans to prepare salmon on the fire. It was, and is still, brilliance. (and I’m with you on the anchovies and capers!)

      August 3, 2012
  2. Cracking! this looks brilliant. I’m ashamed that you just had to devour it! Haha. would have been lovely to see it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cedar plank for sale here…

    August 3, 2012
    • Oh Nick let’s just all get embarrassed and be done with it! If we can’t admit to an occasional bout of gluttony Here, then life just plain sucks! 🙂 !

      August 3, 2012
    • You can use cedar boughs instead if a neughbor’s needs a little pruning. Just make sure they’re good and wet (which they likely would be anyway, coming from there! 🙂 )

      August 3, 2012
  3. I’m just thinking any leftovers and that sauce would make an incredible sandwich the next day!! I’ve cedar-planked my salmon (why does that sound violent?;) before but this sauce is definitely a new combination of flavors for me! I don’t have a sprightly spearmint plant on hand but will be looking for a few sprigs to try this out. I don’t mind anchovies and I adore capers.. all in all lovely! And if this is your “unstaged” work, spree.. you’re a talented photographer:D xx Smidge
    Have a wonderful day!

    August 3, 2012
    • Haha! Cedar planked your salmon DOES sound like you gave it a good spanking. 🙂 And you’re SO right about the leftovers!! And Smidge I KNOW you’d love this – you probably wouldn’t have any trouble finding spearmint amongst the fresh-packaged herbs at your market. I hope you’ll try it – I’d love to hear your lips smackin’ as loud as mine !! You too have a wonderful carefree day! xxoo

      August 3, 2012
  4. What a beautiful photo, Spree. And I’m sure the salmon is delicious.

    August 3, 2012
    • Thanks very much Sharyn.

      August 8, 2012
  5. I am so glad you posted this, Spree. I’ve got the planks and salmon and just haven’t put the two together in ages. That beautiful photo and recipe are quite the wake-up call. I need to break out the planks and release the salmon!

    August 3, 2012
    • (sorry its taken so long to get back to you John! We had to run up to Canada for a few days and I was without Internet.) but yes, do break out the salmon and give them a good planking! You’ll love this, guaranteed! 🙂

      August 8, 2012
  6. Yum! And no need for embarassment or apologies. 🙂 I’m glad you were so excited to eat your delish meal that you only had time for a quick photo! xoxo

    August 3, 2012
  7. peasepudding #

    It sounds and looks divine, we eat a lot of salmon on the BBQ, it’s the perfect fish being oily it holds up to grilling even straight onto the grill.

    August 3, 2012
    • Agree with every word about salmon! I can barely imagine eating without it 🙂 And this was one of the most flavorful preparations ever. Like a perfect marriage. Thank you Allison!

      August 8, 2012
  8. Spearmint! My favorite – anything mint is to die for. While I am not a fish eater I can see the beauty here – it looks so fresh and tempting 🙂 Gorgeous – Happy Weekend Spree!

    August 3, 2012
    • I can see this sauce (minus the anchovies) on all sorts of vegetarian dishes…I’m nuts about spearmint too! Happy travels my friend! xox

      August 8, 2012
  9. I do like cedar plank salmon–when we don’t set the planks on fire. :). And the sauce sounds and looks lovely!

    August 3, 2012
    • Thanks so much Emmy. We haven’t set ours on fire yet, but oo that would be a cooking adventure we’ll try our hardest to avoid! (at all costs, save the salmon!) 🙂

      August 8, 2012
  10. I love spearmint! and though I am the one who is embaressed to say I am not a sea food person, recipes like this make me want to change my mind

    August 4, 2012
    • You might like this sauce on something else then Sawsan…leave the anchovies out I suppose and add a bit of salt in their place. You and I both love a challenge I know….one challenge I’d love is to prepare seafood for you that could change your mind! 😉 (Thanks always for your comments Sawsan!)

      August 8, 2012
  11. I love the flavor a cedar plank adds to salmon. The sauce sounds like a great topping. I think your photo is perfect…no staging necessary.

    August 4, 2012
    • We love it too! Thanks Karen. Sometimes eating just comes before all else.

      August 8, 2012
  12. Your plant looks awesome. So does the recipe. Our plant is a bit on the wild out of control side now. Well both plants. Mint really takes down here. Anyway, love this combo.

    August 4, 2012
    • Our mint would run amok too if we let it. (we’ve made that mistake.) now we tame her in a pot and she’s happy as can be – but can’t make a lot of babies, which maybe she misses though she’s never complained. 🙂 I think you’ll love this sauce if you give it a try.

      August 8, 2012
  13. Wow… Love all of this. Completely new concept with the spearmint and anchovies, etc. And I’ve never used a plank to grill..I’m going to look for one. Thx!

    August 4, 2012
    • Wendy, you may find them on Amazon, but maybe too close to home. Bar none, salmon cooked on a steaming cedar plank is my favorite. And this sauce is ooooh so good! (I guess I already said that though.) 🙂 hope you’ll let me know if you try.

      August 8, 2012
  14. A new experiment for lots of us; thanks for the idea. Welcome back to the kitchen!

    August 5, 2012
    • Thanks so much Ronnie! It feels wonderful to be back!

      August 8, 2012
  15. Pseu #

    I have never heard of cedar plank being used in this way… not sure I can get hold of any. I can however get hold of smoked salmon fillets… so I’ll try the topping on those.

    August 6, 2012
    • Smoked salmon fillets might be on the dry side and even a bit too smoky…if you grilled salmon using smoke chips (cedar, alder, applewood, etc) you’d get approximately the same results. I think the sauce you’ll like (lots!) no matter what you do with the salmon. 🙂

      August 8, 2012
      • Pseu #

        thank you

        August 8, 2012
  16. This looks just too good, will have to do it without a cedar plank though, cedars are a bit thin on the ground here !

    August 6, 2012
    • I know you can order cedar planks for cooking from amazon, but don’t know if you can do so for a good price. Adding any smoking chips to the bar-B would approximate the end result (but the cedar plank, wet and smoking) kept the salmon moist. But even the sauce alone on salmon would be wonderful.

      August 8, 2012
  17. Don #

    You know I loves me a good planked salmon. This one will be the very next one I try, Thanks!

    August 6, 2012
  18. Sounds terrific and the idea of the use of a cedar plank simply makes me want to try it. What would you recommend instead of cedar as this is thin on the ground in the Uk?

    August 7, 2012
    • I know that you can order cedar planks on Amazon, but not sure if you can get them shipped at a good price. If not, I’d probably just go for a more conventional roasting in the bar-B using wet cedar chips for the smoke flavor. If not that, any smoking wood chips would do. Any cedar boughs you could pluck? That’d be wonderful! Cedar was especially good paired with the salmon and sauce but truly any smokiness would be good! The sauce is fabulous!

      August 8, 2012
  19. A top idea! Never thought of adding spearmint to salmon! Beautiful pictures!

    August 7, 2012
    • Ahh thank you so much. The two have become nearly inseparable around here lately!

      August 26, 2012
  20. Well if that”s the kind o fphotography you do when there is no stage or scene setting, then WOW. Love the addition of the capers and anchovies – but then I’m biaised 🙂 and see who well they’d work with rich salmon !

    August 9, 2012
  21. Have you been away or something. I have not seen you in ages.. Love this recipe and I think i have spearmint in the garden too.. wow.. have fun.. c

    August 11, 2012
    • Celi – have I been away? Well, I sort of have, life being far bigger than me. But I’m back and so anxious to get caught up! Have missed life on the farmy!

      August 26, 2012

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