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Bob Hart’s Recipe for Planked Salmon

CURIOUSLY, salmon is our favourite fresh fish. But why “curiously”?

Because salmon is not native to our waters. So if older Australians even tasted fresh salmon in their youth, they must have done it abroad!

These days, however, salmon is everywhere, and is a favourite barbecue fare. But do we always extract as much flavour from it as we should? I think not…

For example, if you are cooking it in, or even on, foil, you have already handicapped yourself. If you leave the skin on the fish and start the grilling process with the skin to the grill, you are on the right track – provided you leave the lid down long enough to almost compete the cooking, and leave the fish in place long enough for the (oiled) skin to release from the (oiled) grill. But do you?

There is, however, one foolproof method: grilling your skinned, centre fillet of salmon on a cedar plank. And these planks are available through any and all barbecue shops.

Try this:

Soak your plank for at least a couple of hours in a tray, or similar, in which weights can keep the plank submerged under a couple of cms of cold water.

Trim (or have your fishmonger trim) and skin your fillets. Most planks will hold about 8 medium fillets or 10 small fillets, crossways. And keep that in mind when you find yourself fretting about the price: good planks can cost around $10 each, but if you think of that in terms of 8-10 portions, it’s not unreasonable.

Make some dill compound butter a day before you plan to cook the salmon by processing half a block of unsalted butter, a couple of cloves of garlic, the frond-half of a (washed!) bunch of dill and 2 tbs Dijon mustard until it is well combined. Then, wrap it in plastic wrap, roll it into a sausage and freeze overnight.

Now, place the skinned, trimmed fillets of fish, crossways, on a plank, season them well with salt, pepper and EV olive oil and place them on a hot, clean, oiled grill – a Weber Q is ideal – at 200C.

While they are cooking, slice your compound butter into half-cm slices and, when the fish has been cooking for 10 minutes, lift the lid and place one slice on each fillet. Drop the lid.

Raise the lid after another 5 minutes and, magic will have happened: your salmon will not simply have been cooked to perfection with a seductive cedar flavouring, but the butter will have been transformed into a rich, green sauce.

And yes, YOU did that. Now wait until you taste it…

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