Maple Salmon

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Nick Roumel

Nothing gives a special character to food more than good wood smoke. Or your clothes for the next few days. But it’s worth it to dine on delicacies like this cedar planked salmon, with whiskey maple glaze.

Having never cooked salmon on a cedar plank before, I had to trust my fishmonger. He retrieved a plank from the basement for me and informed me of the recipe on his website. The recipe called for their proprietary salmon glaze, and unfortunately, they did not have such glaze. Thus I went scurrying to the marvelous internet to find a recipe that combined the salmon and piece of wood with things that I always have around the house, like maple syrup and whiskey.

Maple syrup is one of those things I used to keep only in case I made pancakes or waffles. Now I use it more frequently, like in my morning oatmeal or baking. It’s not cheap, so keep it out of the hands of kiddies when they pour a sea of it on their Mickey Mouse pancakes. They prefer the “maple flavored” sugar syrup anyway.

You can generally choose between Grade A and Grade B maple syrup, and find it not only in stores but in roadside stands up north, as a legal front for the meth labs. The difference is subtle: Grade B is slightly darker and has more intense flavor, and maybe a buck or two cheaper.

However, all maple syrup is made the same way: by boiling down the thin, slightly sweet sap of the sugar maple tree in large, shallow pans over a very hot fire, and boiling it down into a concentrated syrup. According to deepmountainmaple.com, as much as 40-45 gallons of sap are needed to produce one gallon of syrup!

A note about Irish whiskey: the assumption that Bushmill’s is “Protestant” whiskey and Jameson’s “Catholic” may be more symbolic than based on truth, either in history or today. I personally choose on taste. Bushmill’s is smoother but Jameson’s (which also makes Paddy’s and Redbreast) has a deeper, more Scotch-like complexity. I and my salmon prefer Jameson’s.

“Abby Girl’s” recipe from food.com was modified by yours truly. This is a very mellow salmon, with a bit of a kick and a sweet finish to complement that smoky, flaky cedar planked fillet.

Ingredients:

1 cedar plank

1 3 lb. salmon fillet, skin on

For the glaze:

2 TBS apple cider

2 TBS soy sauce

Juice and zest of one orange

1 TBS minced ginger (peel and mince in food processor)

6 TBS whiskey

3/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 TBS butter

Sea or kosher salt/ground black pepper

Granulated onion/onion powder/scallions

2 lemons

1. Soak the cedar plank overnight or at least an hour or two (I used the bathtub, weighted down with a ceramic cat door stopper)

2. Combine the glaze ingredients (EXCEPT pepper and butter) over low heat in a saucepan; bring to a simmer and reduce by half until a thick syrup. Add the butter and red pepper and set aside.

3. Season the salmon with salt, pepper, and onion. Pour the glaze over the salmon and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.

4. Preheat the grill at medium high heat 5-10 minutes. Rinse the plank and place it on the cooking grate. Cover the grill and heat the plank for 4-5 minutes or until it starts to smoke and crackles lightly.

5. Reduce heat to medium low. Season the plank with salt and place the salmon skin side down on the plank. Cover the grill and cook 15-20 minutes until the fish flakes.

6. Baste periodically and liberally with the glaze. Have a spray bottle water at the ready in case the edges of the plank start to burn.

7. When salmon is done, squeeze half a lemon over it and serve, garnished with the remaining lemon slices and perhaps some thinly sliced scallions for color.

Enjoy with spring asparagus, mashed potatoes, and of course your favorite Irish whiskey.

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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and wrote a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. Follow him at @nickroumel.

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