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Barbecue Secrets

Recipes of the Week: Rob and Ron's Celebration of Pink Salmon

Aug 17, 2013

Hey barbecue fans! If you're in Vancouver next Sunday, August 25th, don't miss the Pink Salmon Festival -- Noon to 5.00 p.m. at Haddon Park. I'll be joining Chefs Rob Clark and Garrett Schack to cook up a few thousand pounds of fresh wild BC pink salmon for the public. Get a fantastic plate full of great, sustainable seafood, pay what you can by donation. Find out more here. Hope to see you there!

I'm celebrating salmon this week with two of my favourite recipes, one that I came up with and one from Rob Clark, adapted for the grill. I encourage you to try pink salmon, but any wild pacific salmon will do!

Cedar-planked Salmon with Whiskey-maple Glaze

Makes 6–8 servings

This has become one of my signature recipes. I’ve cooked it scores of times over the past few years, my team has won awards with it, and I often get the comment, “This is the best salmon I’ve ever eaten.” The sweet, woody flavor of the Jack Daniel’s and maple syrup complements the richness of the salmon and the aroma of the cedar in this West Coast dish. I like to present it on the plank and then serve it on a bed of field greens tossed with some French walnut oil, kosher salt, and toasted pumpkin seeds.


1 cedar cooking plank, soaked overnight or at least 1 hour

1/2 cup | 125 mL Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey

1 cup | 250 mL real maple syrup

1 tsp | 5 mL crushed dried red chile flakes

1 Tbsp | 15 mL butter at room temperature

1 whole, boned fillet wild Pacific salmon

(about 3 lb  | 1.5 kg), skin on

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp | 5 mL granulated onion (or onion powder

if you can’t find granules)

2 lemons, halved

parsley sprigs for garnish

1 Tbsp | 15 mL finely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley

Make the sauce by combining the whiskey and maple syrup in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a low boil and reduce it by about half, until you have a thick syrup that coats the back of a spoon. Add the chiles and butter and stir the sauce until it’s just combined. Set it aside and keep it warm on the stovetop.

            Season the skinless side of the salmon with salt, pepper, and granulated onion. Let the salmon sit for 10–15 minutes at room temperature, until the rub is moistened.

            While the salmon is sitting, preheat the grill on medium-high for 5–10 minutes, or until the chamber temperature rises above 500°F | 260°C. Rinse the soaked plank and place it on the cooking grate. Cover the grill and heat the plank for 4–5 minutes, or until it starts to throw off a bit of smoke and crackles lightly. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Season the plank with kosher salt and place the salmon, skin-side-down, on the plank.

            Cover the grill and cook the salmon for 15–20 minutes, or until the fish has an internal temperature of 135°F | 57°C. Check it periodically to make sure the plank doesn’t catch fire, and spray the burning edges with water if it does, making sure to close the lid afterwards.

            When the salmon is done, squeeze half a lemon along its length and carefully transfer it, plank and all, to a platter. Garnish it with parsley sprigs and the remaining lemon cut into slices. Drizzle a spoonful of the sauce over each portion as you serve it, and sprinkle it with a little chopped parsley.

Wild BC Salmon with Homemade Tartar Sauce and Tomato Salad

Makes 4 servings

Rob Clark is the best seafood chef in Vancouver, and that’s saying something. This is his recipe, adapted for the grill. It’s a sophisticated version of a salmon grilling technique I learned many years ago that’s as easy as pie and as delicious as it gets. The concept is to slather a side of salmon with mayo, put it on a hot grill, skin side down, and cook it until the salmon is done and the mayo has sort of set, like a savory pudding, on the fish. Pair this salmon with some BC Pinot Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc.

For the tartar sauce:
1 cup | 250 mL mayonnaise
2 tsp | 10 mL dried dill
3 Tbsp | 45 mL finely chopped cornichons (gherkins)
1 Tbsp | 15 mL finely chopped stuffed green olives
1 Tbsp | 15 mL finely chopped shallots 
1 Tbsp | 15 mL finely chopped capers
1 Tbsp | 15 mL finely chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp | 30 mL lemon juice
1 Tbsp | 15 mL Dijon mustard 15 mL

For the salmon:
four 6 oz | 175 g  boneless wild BC salmon fillets (skin on) (Rob prefers pink salmon but coho or sockeye also work well)
sea salt

For the tomato salad:
2 Tbsp | 30 mL extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp | 10 mL rice wine vinegar
1 tsp | 5 mL Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp | 15 mL finely minced shallot
1/8 tsp | .5 mL cayenne pepper
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 medium fresh heirloom tomatoes (yellow ones work nicely)

            Prepare the tartar sauce by combining the mayonnaise, dill, cornichons, olives, shallots, capers, parsley, lemon juice, and mustard until well blended. Set the mixture aside.
            Prepare the tomato salad by whisking together all the ingredients except the tomatoes. Slice the tomatoes into 1/4 inch | 6 mm rounds. Gently toss the tomato slices in the vinaigrette and divide the salad between 4 serving plates.
            Season the salmon fillets with salt and let them sit for 10 minutes.
            Prepare your grill for medium direct heat. Place the salmon fillets, skin-side-down, on the cooking grate and slather each of them with 1 Tbsp | 15 mL of the tartar sauce. Cover the grill and cook the salmon for 5–7 minutes, until the fillets reach an internal temperature of 135°F | 57°C.
            To serve the salmon, place the fillets on the plates beside the tomato salad and finish the dish with a dollop of the remaining tartar sauce.