Monday, June 21, 2010

A grilling lesson from my father: two types of cedar plank grilled fish

On a recent Sunday night, my father called to invite me to a dinner he and my mother were having with some friends. Of course my first question was "What are you making?". My second question was "Can I document it for my blog?".

 And so, I bring you a grilling lesson from my father, backyard grill master, whose many talents include but are not limited to: making some of the best, juiciest hamburgers ever, smoking fish and meats, grilling vegetables and fruit to smoky perfection, and making so many homemade rubs for ribs you can't keep count. He is a big fan of experimentation in the field of grilling (as well as in other cooking fields- he recently introduced me to French-toasted croissants, an odd idea that turned out actually quite good, if extremely high in calories), and has recently introduced grilled artichokes and fennel to our usual grilled vegetable lineup, two things I have to say would never have occurred to me to grill, but came out lovely.

Today he is grilling 2 types of fish on soaked cedar planks- halibut with a lemon white wine marinade, and mustard brown sugar glazed steelhead trout.

 I did quite a bit of grilling last summer while living in the Berkshires, using a small kettle grill purchased at Family Dollar which I set up in my unused parking space. Grilled veggies, hamburgers and steak abounded, but especially the veggies as I was essentially dirt poor at that time. This was my first real experience with grilling, while I grew up in a household with at one time 3 grills and a smoker set up in our tiny urban backyard (yes, really) I also happened to live with a grill-master, and never needed to try grilling on my own. Living in North Adams was my first time far away from the luxuries of my multiple grill home. I made do certainly, and called my dad a few times near tears saying "the grill was lit, but it won't stay lit and now it is starting to rain- what do I dooooo???" (I also learned that if a person with my alcohol tolerance starts drinking shortly after lighting the grill, and doesn't have anything to eat until the grill is hot and then the food cooked, that person will end up quite inebriated by the time the food is cooking, and unable to turn smaller items on the grill without at least two thirds of them falling through the grate to a charcoal-y death).

So, as you can probably tell, despite my grilling "experience" I am still a person who could benifit from a grilling lesson or 2 (or 5), especially when the grill in question is no longer a small kettle grill, but this mammoth thing:
 Isn't this the same grill they use on Down Home Cooking with the Neely's?

First, I received a lesson in lighting a grill with a chimney, something I haven't tried before. In my above mentioned grilling experience I have always lit the grill using lighter fluid, and lots of it, and I have to say I am glad to learn the "fossil fuel free" method as my Dad called it. Also, this method avoids that initial big flame up that threatens to singe your hair and clothing that can happen if you use too much lighter fluid.

Using the chimney turned out to be quite simple, he started by crumpling newspaper into the bottom compartment of the chimney and lighting it, and then after the fire had time to grow, adding the lump charcoal into the top of the chimney, filling it up about half way at first, waiting for it light and for the fire to grow before adding a little more charcoal.

The grill-master preparing newspaper to light

the coals are added in and given time to get hot.

Once the charcoal was glowing orange, he dumped it out into the grill, (all in one side of the grill, to allow for the fish to be cooked on the other side, with indirect heat) and added a few pieces of soaked hickory for extra smoky flavor (he also told me that the classic wood to use like this when grilling fish was applewood, but as he didn't have any, hickory would do just fine)

While the Grill heats up, a note about the types of fish used:
I had never seen steelhead trout before, the original recipe he was using called for Salmon, but as it turns out steelhead trout makes a good substitute for Salmon. My father picked some up as an experiment in the place of salmon, not a bad idea. In fact, according to Chef Ian of MCL restaurants, steelhead trout "could be the best salmon you've ever had" also, he notes that steelhead trout is "Less expensive, sustainable, and tastier" - in his words "Pink is the new green".

The other fish he chose to use was Halibut, which is one of my favorites- having only come around to eating fish pretty recently, I find I really enjoy how light and "not-too-fishy" the flavors are in white fish such as halibut, cod and tilapia. These were my gateway seafoods in fact, after refusing to eat any seafood what so ever for most of my life, I eventually agreed to eat a bit of halibut or cod here and there, and now I even eat (and even enjoy) "fishier" fish and shellfish.This particular halibut recipe is, of course, grilled on a cedar plank per the theme, but first quickly marinaded in a white wine and lemon based marinade.

The Salmon dish (or in this case steelhead trout as we discussed) was made using a recipe by Steve Raichlen, author of The Barbecue Bible and other grilling related titles (my father, family grill-master, is a big fan of his). In this dish the top of the salmon is coated with Dijon mustard and brown sugar  which cooks to a beautiful golden brown. This recipe was also featured on BBQ with Bobby Flay, and can be found here.

Halibut marinade:
(adapted from a recipe on credited to "Ashley" Ashley who? I can't say.)
for 2 1lb halibut steaks:
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground pepper to your liking
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon lemon zest

Now on to preparing the steelhead trout:

Grainy Dijon mustard and brown sugar

remove the skin from the salmon (or steelhead trout in this case) and lay former skin side down on one of the planks, which have been soaked in a salt water brine.

Slather the top of the fish with mustard

Then sprinkle on the brown sugar.

And grill both fish over indirect heat. Cover the grill and cook for 20-30 minutes, basting the halibut with its marinade as needed.

What a nice spread! Thanks, Dad! 

Both of these fish dishes turned out luscious and moist, and full of interesting flavor. They were a hit with the family and the friends we had over that night- I am not sure which one I liked more!

1 comment:

  1. I love all the props you're giving to the Grill Meister in this post!