Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon with Orange-Muscat Beurre Blanc

cedar plank salmon After grilling fresh Coho salmon fillets over cedar planks, its hard to enjoy salmon prepared any other way.  My building’s facilities manager, Bruce, generously shared his catch from a recent trip to Alaska.  This recipe combines the rustic, smoky flavor of the cedar planks with the subtle, sweet butteryness of the beurre blanc.  Its a great combo, as I hope you will soon discover.

Total kitchen time: 1 hr
Makes: 4 1lb fillets

Shopping list:

  • 4 1lb. salmon fillets (with skin is fine, without is fine also)
  • 2 large (or 4 small) cedar planks for grilling
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp. orange-muscat vinegar (honestly, any white wine vinegar will work, this one just adds a little flavor and a lot of adjectives.  Available at Trader Joe’s.)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into teaspoons
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  1. Soak the cedar planks, completely submerged, in cold water for at least 1 hour.  Preheat your grill over medium-high heat before grilling.
  2. For the beurre blanc, heat a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add the diced shallot and about 1 tsp. of olive oil and cook until the shallot smells great, about 3 minutes.  If it looks like the shallot is starting to brown, reduce the heat.
  3. Add the white wine vinegar (in this case, orange muscat vinegar) and stir to deglaze the pan.  Continue to cook until the vinegar has reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and 2 teaspoons of butter.  Continually whisk the butter until it is completely melted.  If the butter starts to foam, place the bottom of the pan on a cold surface (like a stone countertop) to cool it.  Add the remaining butter, 2 teaspoons at a time, whisking continually.  If the butter refuses to melt, hold the pan over very low heat for a few seconds and then remove. 
  5. Once all the butter is incorporated, taste the sauce and adjust with a fine-grain salt and freshly ground white pepper.  You can use black pepper if you want, but white pepper will make the sauce look prettier.
  6. Prepare the salmon fillets by patting them dry and coating with salt, pepper and fennel seeds on the flesh side.  Rub the fillets on all sides with olive oil. 
    salmon meal
  7. Make sure your grill has been preheated over medium-high heat.  Arrange the cedar planks on your grill and place the fillets, skin side down (if they have skin) on the cedar planks.  Close the lid and grill for 15-20 minutes, or until the fish is fully cooked.  The planks will give off a lot of smoke which adds to the excellent flavor.  However, if your planks should catch fire, simply spray them with a small amount of water (I recommend San Pellegrino :-)) until the flames dissipate. 
  8. When the salmon is cooked to your preferred doneness (let’s face it, either it’s undercooked, done, or overcooked), use a long spatula or a chef’s knife to remove them from the planks.  Top with a spoonfull of the beurre blanc and serve!

Look for more cedar plank recipes this summer.  I’m now a big fan of this cooking method and it deserves some further exploration.  Do you have any favorite wood cooking recipes?  Leave ‘em in the comments below.

Grilled Endive with Smoked Salmon and Lemongrass Beurre Blanc

endive with salmon
Admittedly, this is probably not a recipe that you’ll bring to your next block party (depending on the block).  Nor will you see this dish arranged on a paper plate alongside baked beans and an Oscar Meyer Wiener.  Nope, this is a different kind of grill fare, made for epicurean ambassadors of outdoor cooking who aren’t afraid to cook a beurre blanc over the coals of a kettle grill.  If your next outdoor party calls for something a little more delicate than frozen burgers, give this recipe a shot.

Makes: 6 elegant endive bites
Total kitchen time: 40 minutes

Shopping list:

  • 3 heads of Belgan Endive (or try Escarole)
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped lemongrass
  • 3 tbsp. champagne (or sweet white wine)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/4 lb. smoked salmon
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • sea salt, to taste
  1. Preheat your grill over low heat.  If your grill has multiple zones, set the front zone to medium high and leave the back zone off.  You can also make this recipe in the oven, but you’ll miss all the sunshine flavor.
  2. Slice each head on endive lengthwise and coat all sides with olive oil.  Lightly salt both sides of the endive. 
  3. Place the endive, round side down, on the cool area of your grill and close the lid.  Grill, turning once, for 15 minutes per side.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, add the lemongrass and sweat it for 1-2 minutes over medium heat.  Add the champagne or wine and boil for another 1-2 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to a syrupy consistency.  Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Working 1 tsp. at a time, add the cold butter while constantly whisking.  The butter should not melt right away and at no point should it start to bubble.  Wait until each tsp. of butter is completely absorbed until you add the next one.  If the butter stops melting in to the sauce, put the pan over low heat for just a moment.  Just don’t stop whisking!  Once the butter is completely added, your sauce is done. 
  6. Crumble some of the smoked salmon over the cut side of the endive and top with a small amount of the beurre blanc.  Season with a sprinkling of sea salt, to taste.

These elegant treats are sure to turn heads at your next back yard party.  They pair very well with dry white wine, or white wine sangria.  So, don your finest linen pants and get eating!