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AUG/SEP 2005 | REGIONAL | EAST COAST

Planked Perfection : Cook Fish On The Grill With Beer Marinades
By Lucy Saunders

I arrived at Larry and Angie Bell’s backyard patio with fish in a cooler, ready to cook with Bell’s brews. It was all part of a grand experiment in grilling fish on planks.

In the upper Great Lakes, planked whitefish is standard fare, with filets cooked on wood just as the Anishinabeg Indians did centuries ago. You can cook fish on just about any slab of wood, as long as it is untreated and pest-free. Some thrifty home cooks even use untreated cedar roof shingles. But I chose prepared planks (from the Sautée Cedar Company) for the experiment, thinking the planks seemed a bit thicker and sturdier than a single shingle.

The trick is to soak the planks in water long enough that the wood will generate enough smoke and steam to cook the fish. Also, be sure to place the planked fish over a low fire so as not to ignite the wood but merely give it PGM (pretty grill marks).

As an experiment, I once tried to soak the planks in a good quality craft beer, hoping that the smoke would be hoppy and aromatic. It was not a success, as the malt in the brew caramelized on the wood and made it sticky. And that circumvents one of the key advantages to grilling with wood planks. The best part of cooking fish on planks is that you don’t have to clean the grill grates. The planks just slide off the grill, and the fish won’t stick to the wood, as long as the wood is completely waterlogged before cooking.

After marinating the fish for an hour, we put the wild-caught Alaskan salmon filet on the cedar plank, and the Norwegian cod on the alder plank. Fragrant wisps of smoke trickled out of the covered gas grill in mere minutes, so the fish cooked quickly. A large three-pound filet was done in just 20 minutes. Due to its thickness, the salmon was a bit rare, but the cod cooked perfectly. Try these beer-based marinades with your next cookout, and make your filets fit the plank!

 

[RECIPE] Garlic and Fig Stout Glaze

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 ounces fig jam or 8 very ripe fresh Mission figs, peeled and diced
12 ounces stout (I used Bell’s Cherry Stout)
1 ounce balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch salt

1. Puree all ingredients in a blender until smooth and use as a marinade for salmon or mackerel. Makes about 2 cups, enough for 2 to 3 pounds fish.

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[RECIPE] Herb-Mustard Ale Glaze

Ingredients:
1/2 cup prepared brown mustard (look for the grainy style)
1/4 cup amber ale
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh marjoram
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of one lemon

1. Whisk all ingredients together and rub over filets at least 1 hour before grilling. Makes enough to cover 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of fish.

 

Lucy Saunders edits beercook.com and brewgrill.com.

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