Monday, July 23, 2007

Smokin' Fish

This past weekend, My Beloved and I found some good looking fish at Andronico's where, BTW, they have a nice system for classifying how sustainable is the harvest of various kinds of fish. Using red, yellow and green, they show you on the price tickets which fish are in short supply in the oceans and which are fished sustainably and without catching other species by mistake. Red is the most threatened, yellow indicates species that are becoming scarce and green is used for fish still in good supply. Our pieces of wild salmon and halibut, lest you worry, were both green.

We decided to plank both kinds of fish, the salmon because that is our all-time favorite preparation for that fish and the halibut as an experimental substitute for swordfish. I love swordfish and I have a great recipe for a summer salsa to complement swordfish but, sadly, swordfish has been red-tagged for years. The sad little steaks you see in the market are a clear indication that younger and younger swordfish are being caught, even before they have reached reproductive maturity. So, I've been looking for a substitute for that firm white swordfish steak that would stand up to my salsa.

The halibut was a home run. Planking it gave it a nice texture, firm but not dry, and the smokiness enhanced what can be a pretty bland fish. Next time, I'll plank it and serve it with the salsa but this time, we snarfed it down plain alongside some fresh greenie beanies and some sourdough baguette from Acme.

If you haven't tried planking, MB and I can highly recommend it as a cooking method for chicken and many kinds of seafood, notably salmon, halibut and sea scallops. We use cedar shingles that come in a large bundle from any good lumber store rather than the very pricey branded ones they sell in the fancy-pants cooking stores. If you want to try it before buying $30 worth of shingles, ask at the lumber yard if they have any samples they can give you; often they have loose samples for contractors.

Be sure to specify untreated cedar shingles - all you want in your smoke is wood, not flame-retarding chemicals!

These shingles have a thick and a thin end. After rinsing the plank with water, I position the fish (salmon should be skin side down) with the thin end of the fish toward the thick end of the plank to even out the cooking time, and set back away from the thinnest portion of the plank. When you place the plank on the barbecue grill, this thin end will burn first, releasing the aromatic smoke into the fish (you can see the plank has begun to scorch in the photo).

Cover the barbecue and let it smoke for about 15 minutes (depends on the heat of your fire and the thickness of your fish) - you can tell salmon is done when it is sizzling merrily where the skin meets the plank and the flesh loses it's gelatinous texture and becomes slightly firm. The halibut was harder to judge but I noticed that when it was ready, it released a clear juice (you can see it running away in the photo) and the flesh turned from white to a rich, almost golden color on the surface. It's a pretty forgiving method so don't worry too much - we have done this many, many times and the fish is always moist and delicious.

Now comes the good part with salmon - run a spatula between the skin and the fish to serve - presto! the skin will stay stuck to the plank. Using these untreated cedar shingles is far more economical than reusable planks from high falutin' shops and no cleanup - just throw away the used plank - yaaay! A big bundle costs about $30 and you get so many that you can thrill your foodie friends by giving them a handful tied with festive ribbon the next time you need a birthday or hostess gift.

They make smokin' gifts! Okay, okay, I know - ouch!


Blogger Dagny said...

That sounds yummy. Now I wish I had a grill.

Monday, July 23, 2007  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Dagny, how can you live life without a grill??? :-)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007  
Blogger SteamyKitchen said...

I love Andronicos. I used to shop there all the time.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

This is so cool! I never knew what to do with a plank. Now I know two extra-special things: It skins your fish, and you can throw it away.
Thanks for the tutorial.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007  
Anonymous Cedar Salmon said...

I wish I had a good plank to try it out. No one is selling Cedar plank in our place. Any other alternative planks to use? I wanna try that method.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Steamy, if you can't make it to the farmers' markets, Andronico's is the next best thing!

Cookiecrumb, when we meet finally, I'll bring you some planks. Remind me!

Cedar, I think you're joshing me...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007  
Blogger Dagny said...

No outdoor area unless you count in the back of my building by the dumpster. *sigh* The main downside of my apartment.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007  
Anonymous Plank Fish said...

I think plank grilling is one of the hottest methods used in gourmet cooking... The way I see it, a lot of bloggers wanted to try it too, they must have been fascinated by the way your Smokin' Fish goes into that photograph. :)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007  

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