The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 08.08.05


Is there a fish more coveted than salmon?

While visiting in Vancouver recently I contemplated the tradition and prominent role that salmon plays in British Columbia's history. You cannot escape or ignore the salmon likenesses displayed everywhere, from airport to downtown, whether indigenous or modern in art form.

It's doubtful that a menu can be found here that does not offer some salmon dish or other, and even most Asian restaurants capitalize on the theme. Thai salmon curry, anyone?

Markets and groceries offer shiny specimens that rival sharks in size and ruby red fillets tempt passers by at every turn.

Indian Candy, with its smoky sweetness and sometimes jerky like texture, can be chewed enroute.

Cold-smoked and hot-smoked variations abound with prices that require skills in haggling and negotiation for the smart shopper.

You do not have to be on the West Coast to enjoy fresh quality salmon, as Down-Easters will tell you though.

Atlantic salmon is touted as the best in many circles, depending on which side of the pond you reside and I even found some at the market here saddled up next to its western cousin. It's hard to differentiate species by looks alone, unless you are a frequent and experienced salmon eater.

No matter -- there is a lot to learn from helpful fish mongers who are happy to oblige with good recipes and cooking techniques.

A local fisherman at a Vancouver market passed on this recipe for a cedar-planked version that he claims will allow you to enjoy fresh salmon fillets at their best. Cedar Planks can now be purchased all over in most barbecue sections of stores, next to hickory and mesquite chips and charcoal.

Ask for assistance or make a trip to the local lumber provider for some planks, too.

Just make sure you use natural untreated cedar and soak the planks in fresh water for at least two hours prior to use.

Cedar-Planked Salmon

1 cedar plank (6 by 14 inches)
2 salmon fillets (1 1/2 pounds total)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons brown sugar Drizzle of olive oil

Soak cedar plank in salted water for 2 hours, then drain. Remove skin from salmon fillet. Remove any remaining bones. Rinse the salmon under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Generously season the salmon with salt and pepper on both sides. Lay the salmon (on what was skin-side down) on the cedar plank and carefully spread the mustard over the top and sides. Place the brown sugar in a bowl and crumble between your fingers, then sprinkle over the mustard. Drizzle a little olive oil over fillets.

Set grill for indirect grilling and heat to medium-high. Place the cedar plank in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook until cooked through, around 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer the salmon and plank to a platter and serve right off the plank.

A direct method to grill the salmon may be used. Soak the cedar plank well. Spread the mustard and brown sugar on the salmon, but do not place the fish on the plank.

Set up the grill for direct grilling on medium-high. When ready to cook, place the plank on the hot grate and leave it until there is a smell of smoke, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Turn the plank over and place the fish on top. Cover the grill and cook until the fish is cooked through.

Check the plank occasionally. If the edges start to catch fire, mist with water, or move the plank to a cooler part of the grill.