My favorite cooking appliance isn’t in my kitchen, it’s right outside, literally. It’s my gas grill! I love cooking meals on the grill and use it all year-long — in rain or shine, snow or sleet, as long as there is a clear path leading to the gill, I cook on it. It wasn’t until a few years ago though that I started to plank grill.
Grilling with a plank is a lot like using a pan, except the plank has the ability to produce smoke. This method is great because it provides a stable surface to grill your food on while at the same time infusing it tons of flavor. It’s also healthier than traditional grilling, as dishes remain juicier and require less added fat and salt for flavor.
So when Plank Grilling: 75 Recipes for Infusing Foods with Flavor Using Wood Planks by Dina Guillen showed up at the house, I was excited. Up until that point I’d just been pulling plank grilling recipes off the internet, not realizing there were whole cookbooks devoted to this cooking method. Plank Grilling – 75 Recipes for Infusing Foods with Flavor Using Wood Planks is the perfect cookbook for a grill plank beginner or even an intermediate planker like myself.
Guillen spends the first sections of the of the book explaining the basics of plank grilling, such as the method’s origins, how to properly prepare planks for grilling and how to choose the right wood for your plank. See, different woods offer different flavors. For example cedar offers a spicy, sweet, smoky flavor perfect for seafood, veggies and fruits while alder has hints of vanilla and can be both sweet and nutty, ideal for pork, chicken, turkey and even pizza (yes, pizza on the grill is AWE-SOME!). There are 75 of them in this cookbook broken down into starters & soups, pizzas, seafood, pork & poultry, beef & lamb and vegetables & side dishes.
I’d say the majority of recipes are pretty practical and her instructions on the mechanics of plank grilling are to-the-point and easy to follow, totally doable for a seasoned or novice griller. Here’s one of my favorites from the cookbook, Salmon with Sherry Tomato Sauce, which I’ve been allowed to excerpt here by permission of the book’s publisher Sasquatch Books:
Salmon with Sherry Tomato Sauce
Serves: 4 Prep Time: 15 minutes to prep Sherry Tomato Sauce ingredients and salmon
Cook Time: 40 minutes for both Sherry Tomato Sauce & grilling salmon
1 Cedar Plank 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 1 shallot, finely chopped ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided ½ cup dry sherry ½ cup low-sodium chicken stock 9 ounces cherry tomatoes, quartered (about 2 cups) 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
- Soak the plank for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
- Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper and cook, stirring often, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the sherry and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cook until the sauce is reduced to ½ cup, about 10 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, vinegar, and tarragon and stir to combine.
- Remove the pan from the heat and let the sauce cool to room temperature.
- Prepare the plank for grilling, by placing it on grill for about 10 minutes over a medium high heat to toast the board slightly and start to release the smoky flavor of the plank.
- Season the salmon with the remaining ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Place the salmon on the toasted side of the plank.
- Spoon the sauce evenly over the salmon and close the lid. Grill for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the salmon flakes easily with a fork.
- Serve immediately!
So here is what the photo in the cook accompanying this recipe looks like and what my dish wound up like:
Not to bad, I’d say – and it was certainly delicious and loaded with smoky flavor. For a side dish I made a lemon orzo with spinach and feta cheese. I thought it was a nice compliment to the salmon. So does reading this make you want to try plank grilling for yourself?