This will sound blasphemous to some, but I don’t appreciate steak houses. And I’ve been to some good ones, thanks to some corporate jobs. (Good ones in the sense that they are renowned, respected and regularly hailed for their fine aged beef, perfect preparations and consistent sides). To me, however, they’re menus are boring and the prices are high. A steak. A chop. A filet. I feel that with access to a good butcher, I can do the same thing at home — and for a lot less. I may be in the minority on this and I accept it.
I’ve also noticed that at virtually every steakhouse I’ve set foot in, the side dishes are served a la carte and they are identical from one restaurant to another. Grilled asparagus, creamed spinach, saut?ed mushrooms and of course, potatoes — mashed, baked, fried, hash-browned. It always bothered me that the sides didn’t come with the dinner items. That’s like going to Denny’s for a stack of pancakes and the butter and maple syrup are served a la carte. I don’t think so.
I know it’s a roundabout way of getting to this recipe, but here’s the connection: I actually had it for the first time in a steakhouse! A plank roasted salmon topped with fennel and tomato ragout. I found this combination unexpected and memorable. And it was off-the-charts good! So good that I had to try and make it at home. Two days later, I did. I played around with the ingredients and eventually came up with this close approximation. I was hooked.
Since my first attempt, this dish has made regular appearances at our dinner table. I usually serve it with roasted potatoes and a green salad or just a glass of wine and some crusty bread. Emily and Scott gobble it up!
This is a really simple, flavorful way to cook salmon. Just factor in time to soak the plank before smoking!
- 1 1 1/2 lb Atlantic salmon filet skin on, pin-bones removed with tweezers or pliers.
- 1 bulb fennel cored, sliced vertically into 1/4" wide pieces. Reserve a few fronds for garnish.
- 1 large tomato cored, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 lemon zested
- 1 wood plank preferably cedar or alder
In a large rimmed baking pan (a 13x9 would work depending on the size of your plank) place the wood plank. Fill the pan with water and use a heavy dish to weight the plank so that it is submerged in the water. Soak the plank for about an hour.
Heat the grill to a medium high heat of about 425 degrees. Place the plank on the grill for about 3-5 minutes with the lid closed. Then flip the plank, closing the lid after for another 3-5 minutes. The plank will smoke lightly after the first side has heated. Monitor the plank to verify it's releasing a light smoke.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add fennel and stir. Cover tightly with lid and let simmer, stirring occasionally about 8-10 minutes, until fennel is softened and slightly translucent. Stir in chopped tomatoes, cover and simmer an additional five minutes, until tomatoes are softened. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in balsamic vinegar and lemon zest.
Place salmon, skin side down, on the plank. The smoke should be lightly visible and steady. Close the lid and cook for 10-12 minutes for medium. Monitor the heat so that the plank is constantly emitting a steady stream of smoke, not too heavy.
Carefully remove plank and fish from the grill and rest on a cutting board or baking sheet for about 5 minutes.
To serve: Cut salmon into 2" thick slices (skin will stick to the plank leaving you with a nice fillet) and place on a plate. Top with a generous spoonful of fennel mixture. Garnish with fennel fronds.
Use Atlantic salmon for this recipe. It's the fattiest and it works best in this preparation. Coho and Sockeye are great, but I've found they don't have those thick Omega-3 striations of fat that Atlantic does. Try to get wild Atlantic salmon if you can.