Japanese food is and always has been among my favorites. For this recipe, I marinated salmon in a classic Japanese marinade of miso and sake and then added a little twist of grilling the fish on a cedar plank. Cooking salmon on cedar planks dates back to the native people of the Pacific Northwest, who cooked salmon over open fires on planks of cedar and alder. As the cedar plank smolders over the fire, it imparts a woody, smoky flavor to the salmon and gives it a platform to cook on without breaking apart; there is no need to flip it. To enhance the flavor even more, I add the leftover sake to the water that I soaked the plank in. The salmon was incredibly moist, both sweet and salty from the miso marinade and had a slight smokiness from the cedar plank.
Tips for grilling fish on cedar planks: Prepare the plank by soaking it in water for at least one hour to prevent it from burning on the grill. If a plank is being used for the first time, season it by placing it on a preheated grill for 2 minutes, turning once. Lightly toasting the plank on both sides will intensify its smoky flavor and prevent warping. Lightly brush the side of the plank that the fish will sit on with a little oil to help prevent sticking. Place marinated the marinated fish directly on the plank and keep the grill’s lid closed as much as possible to maintain temperatures and maximize smoking. Keep a spray bottle filled with water handy so flames can be extinguished if the plank starts to burn.
Cedar Planked Miso Salmon
1 1/2 pounds center-cut salmon fillets with skin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup shiro miso (also called white or light miso)*
1/4 cup sake
2 tablespoons mirin (optional)
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 scallions, green parts thinly sliced on the bias for garnish
1 or 2 cedar planks soaked in water for at least 1 hour (I used the leftover sake + water)
Direct heat on cedar planks
Lightly salt the fish and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Blot away any moisture with paper towels and place fish in a container that just holds the fish or in a a resealable plastic bag. Stir together the miso, mirin, vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce. Pour the marinade over the fish, cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least a couple hours and as long as 24 hours. Remove fish from marinade about 30 minutes prior to cooking and lightly wipe away excess marinade with your fingers; do not rinse.
Set up grill for direct heat over medium-high heat. Toast the planks as described above and place the salmon on the planks. Close the grill cover and cook for 12 to 15 minutes. Stay near and check from time-to-time to be sure the plank has not ignited (like mine did). Keep a squirt bottle of water on-hand just in case. :-) Start checking the salmon for doneness at about 12 minutes. The salmon is done when it is uniformly pink in the center.
Transfer to serving platter and garnish with scallions. Enjoy!
*Miso is available at Japanese markets, natural foods stores, and in the refrigerated Asian foods section of some supermarkets. Try to buy non-GMO and organic, if possible.
Cheers and Happy Grilling!