After nearly two weeks on vacation – including a 4-day drive down to Arizona with stops in Las Vegas (we didn’t gamble a dime), the Hoover Dam (and the new Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tilman Memorial Bridge), the Grand Canyon, and a week in Scottsdale – we are back home. We got to experience both unseasonably warm (it was 100 degrees in Scottsdale when we got there on April 1st) and unseasonable cool (it only reached 74 degrees the day we left) weather, and the kids had more than their share – but maybe not their fill – of sun and swimming. We caught a couple of workouts at Cactus CrossFit (thanks Kevin, Jason, and everyone else we met), made it to the top of Camelback Mountain one morning, and otherwise just enjoyed a week away from our “regular” lives.
Like all good things, the fun and relaxation of being on vacation can’t last. Eventually, we run out of time or money and have to come home. But it’s not entirely bad…because when we get home we quickly realize how much we miss some things, like our cats, our own beds, and our carefully arranged kitchen including sharp knives and a full set of spices (notice I didn’t say rain and clouds, which we also came home to). Something else we miss is the abundance of fresh wild-caught salmon here in the PNW. So rather than slip into a depression caused by the abrupt stop of natural internal Vitamin D production, I thought it might be fitting to make our first meal back home something that reminds us of some of the finer points to living with moss growing in the shadows of our ears and webs forming between our toes and fingers.
- 2-1/2 lbs of fresh wild-caught salmon filets, approx 3/4″ thick (two separate filets from the head of the fish works well to make sure everything will cook evenly)
- 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp fresh sqeezed lemon juice
- 1 tbsp grass-fed butter, softened
- t tsp fresh ginger root, grated
- 1 tsp dark sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice
- 1/2 tsp poppy seeds
- 1 cedar plank, roughly 6″ x 16″ (you can buy grilling planks at many grocery stores, or look for a remnant piece of smooth clear white cedar at a home improvement store). Don’t get anything with stain or other wood treatment on it, and don’t get rough-cut fencing boards!
Start out by soaking the cedar plank in water for at least 30 minutes. This helps keep it from burning, and lets it naturally smoke the salmon (you can use cedar planks for other meats or veggies too) instead of turning into a torch like dry cedar would normally do over 400+ degree heat. Also note that cedar floats (in case you weren’t sure about that), so you’ll need to weigh it down with something while it soaks so that the whole plank is wet.
While the plank is soaking, slice the salmon filets through the meat but not through the skin, dividing each filet into four sections. In a prep bowl, combine the hoisin sauce, dijon, butter, ginger, lemon juice, and sesame oil. You can choose to melt the butter first if you like (our microwave went out just before vacation, so I just “mashed” the softened butter). In a separate small prep bowl, combine the salt, five spice, and poppy seeds.
Spread the ginger-hoisin mixture over the filets, making sure to work it down between the cuts. Then sprinkle the spice mixture evenly over the top of the filets. Set them aside to come to room temperature while you heat the grill to medium-high heat (about 400 degrees). When the grill is heated up, place the cedar plank directly on the grate over the heat and let warm up for about 5 minutes (if you have a direct-heat grill, this may only take a minute or two).
Place the salmon, skin side down, directly on top of the hot cedar plank. Close the grill and let cook for at least 15 minutes before checking (unless you’ve got a thinner cut, which will cook faster). The idea is to keep the heat in the grill. Of course, if you see flames start pouring out of the grill, you may open the lid and spray some water from a squirt bottle onto the plank to douse the fire…but put the lid back on as quickly as possible. Continue grilling, checking only as often as necessary, until the salmon is opaque all the way through and flaky in the thickest part but still moist. On my pellet grill (indirect heat), this was about 30 minutes.
Transfer the salmon and the plank off of the grill together, using a wide spatula, strong grilling tongs, or any other method that will prevent burned fingers and spilled dinner. Place them onto a serving platter large enough to hold the plank and tent the whole thing with foil a few minutes while you wrap up the final preparation steps of any side dishes you are serving. To serve, use a flexible spatula to separate each pre-cut section of salmon from the skin and transfer to plates while still warm.