We needed a good meal before the graduation ceremony this past Saturday since it would be a long one, starting early, and ending late with only cookies, fruit, and punch to greet us at the end. Copper River salmon is in season and I knew just what I wanted to treat my parents to for their last meal in Washington State ... plank-grilled Copper River. I love alder plank grilled salmon, but I had cedar planks on hand. I love it just about as much! (Aly thought I was being clever serving CEDAR PLANK grilled salmon on the same day that Ben graduated from CEDAR PARK. It might have just become our pre-graduation meal of choice.)
[This link for grilling planks is to Williams-Sonoma. As much as I love that store, I can usually find their products elsewhere for less moolah. I know that Costco has cedar planks for cheaper. Check around for prices, but always be sure to purchase food-appropriate planks.]
My method is very simple. I soak the wood for a minimum of 20 minutes, longer if possible. The wood WILL burn so the more soaked it is, the better. Even if it is super wet, it will still smoke and flavor the meat.
I lay half of the filleted salmon on one plank, rub it with olive oil, salt and pepper it, then layer fresh dill sprigs and lemon slices on it. If the salmon you are grilling is too long for the board, simply cut it into several pieces to fit the other direction on the plank. Works just as well.
We have a gas grill so I heat it to high, then lower the temp to medium before I put the planks on. Ultimately, I end up lowering the heat so the salmon cooks evenly, the wood smokes appropriately enough to flavor the meat, and doesn't burn too much in the process. Cook the salmon until it flakes easily when separated, but isn't too firm. If you cook it until it is too firm, it will be dry and less palatable.
Even after you take the planks off the grill, you'll hear the wood crackling. It's so cool.
Run a large metal spatula between the skin and the meat (hopefully) and transfer it carefully to a large platter. If you don't get a clean separation between the skin and the meat, don't worry. Each diner can remove what they choose not to eat.
Along with the salmon, I served steamed rice, sauteed asparagus (which had been picked the day before ... Yay for farmer's markets), and a large green salad (same ... picked the day before) tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. It doesn't demand much more "pomp" than those "circumstances" ... we saved the rest for the Graduation ceremony.
(Who titled the graduation processional "Pomp and Circumstance" anyway? And what does it mean?! Pomp? I get, but "Circumstance"?! I don't get that.)
You can try this grilling method with any fish and with any salmon, of course. However, be sure to choose wild fish if given the choice between wild and farmed.