It is amazing the power that smell has on our emotions. Years ago, I went to Italy and, while there, I bought some cologne. Every single time I opened the lid and and put some on, I would smell the cologne and be whisked away to Italy. The smell seemed to bring back my memories and experiences from the trip.
There are times other aromas have impacted me as well. I am not a huge fan of flowers, but I must say that I absolutely love the smell of lilacs. The smell just screams spring and always puts me in a good mood. A handful of years ago, we lived out in the country and there was a huge meadow next to our property. It was filled with lilac bushes and we would often walk through the meadow in the spring. I can remember times when we would have a picnic in the middle of the meadow surrounded by flowering lilac bushes. Yeah, and now we live in Toronto – what a change!
One other smell that is intoxicating to me is the aroma of smoking cedar when plank grilling. I absolutely love to plank grill and it is much simpler than you might think. It is far easier than many other forms of grilling because there are typically not flare ups or much of a chance to burn the food, as it is an indirect form of grilling – actually it is far closer to baking or roasting.
Today’s recipe is our ‘go-to’ dish when the planks come out for grilling. Cedar plank salmon is easily the most popular dish for plank grilling and many restaurants have it on their menus. The salmon comes out moist, tender and full of flavour. There are many different toppings that can go on the salmon from spice rubs, herbs, glazes and more. This brown sugar rub has a blend of spices that work perfectly with the taste of the salmon.
When plank grilling, it is essential to make sure the wood has been soaking a minimum of 2 hours. If the wood is too dry it will catch fire, so giving the wood enough time to soak in the water allows it to just smoke on the grill. It is wise to have a pitcher of water next to the grill while it is cooking, just in case it flames up.
The filets I buy are usually somewhere between 1 and 1 1/2 pounds. I like to slice them in half, which gives the perfect portion size. Make sure, when cutting through the salmon, that you cut through the skin as well. Even though the skin is not really edible, it is a great protector of the salmon meat when cooking on the plank. Rub the top and sides of the salmon with the brown sugar rub before placing the fish on the plank. Remove the plank from the water just before it is ready to go on the grill. It is amazing how quick they can dry out when outside on a hot summer day.
The grill should be at a medium heat and somewhere between 350F and 375F. The salmon takes around 15 minutes to cook. The colour will change to a lighter pink that is more opaque than when raw. Also, the salmon is a little more firm to the touch when pressed down. Do not over cook it as it would just dry out and lose a lot of its flavour.
- 2 – 1 or 1½ pound salmon fillets
- 6 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground mustard
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- cedar planks
- Soak cedar planks for at least 2 hours.
- Cut the two salmon filets in half lengthwise. Cut through the skin and make sure that it stays on each piece of salmon.
- Mix the brown sugar and spices together in a bowl.
- Pat the salmon fillets dry with a paper towel.
- Rub the top and sides of the salmon generously with the brown sugar rub and place the salmon, skin side down, on the wet cedar planks.
- Preheat the grill to medium so that the temperature is around 350F-375F.
- Place the planks, with the salmon on them, on the grill and close the lid.
- Cook the salmon for about 15 minutes. The time may vary depending on the thickness of the salmon. The internal temperature should be 135F.