Salmon Perfected

For those of you who have spent time in a sauna, you known and understand the beauty of cedar wood. I told you once that I had found the perfect way too cook salmon…but then I discovered the brilliance of cedar plank grilling. Not only do you get a beautifully tender meat, but also a smoky hint of cedar. I wanted a recipe that was easy, but also impressive – this was just the ticket. Who would have thought that a few simple ingredients could make one of the MOST delicious fish dishes I’ve ever had. You’ve got to give this Cedar-Plank Salmon a try!
Cedar wood’s durability and aromatic qualities have made it a popular resource for cultures across the globe. Historically, its oil was used as part of the embalming process in Ancient Egypt, while the Phoenicians utilized cedar’s strength to build ships and houses. Modern-day uses include linen storage, shingles and furniture, musical instruments, aromatherapy, saunas, etc. Most grocery and specialty stores will carry cedar planks during the summer…as you can tell from the photo, I went to Whole Foods 🙂
These attributes make it the perfect companion in cooking: it’s durable enough to withstand an open flame while also infusing a smoky flavor that is to-die-for amazing! The plank acts like a “pan” on the grill, meaning you can cook a whole salmon steak (rather than individual filets), and not have to worry about the meat sticking to the grate. This gives you more time to socialize with friends and family, rather than worry about what’s happening beneath the lid. A word of caution: this process cooks a very tender salmon,  meaning the meat won’t necessarily appear fully cooked (even though it is). The way to test for doneness is by checking resistance – a fork should slide into the meat like butter. That is what makes this recipe so perfect – click HERE to see how to make this amazing salmon!
For the musical pairing, I wanted to complement the intensity of flavor, with all its subtle nuances. When taking the richness of taste into account, I found myself leaning towards Béla Bartók. Though this fish was by and large superior to other salmon dishes, it wasn’t quite on the orchestral scale; so I chose his String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Op. 7. The opening movement (Lento) primarily captures the thematic feel I intended – it’s a slow lento with contrapuntal dialogue throughout that ebbs and flows between the four voices. Though built like a fugue, Bartók throws in unexpected shifts that take both performer and the listener by surprise. The work in its entirety was inspired by the composer’s unrequited love for Stefi Geyer, which is reflected in the melancholic state of the first movement. The second movement (Allegretto) has a hesitant start, but begins to unfold with a playful and spirited motif as it gains speed. There is still some sign of the first movement’s anguish, but the music has developed into something braver and more adventuresome. The third movement (Introduzione. Allegro — Allegro vivace) serves as the culmination of this musical journey – from the depths of despair to the towers of triumph, our “protagonist” has found new life. For this recipe, which develops into a truly beautiful meal in spite of the standard grilling methods, this quartet was a perfect match. The recording below is with the Novák Quartet – enjoy!

Sources Cited:
Rutherford, Brett. “Program notes for April 15, 2009: Tákacs String Quartet with Marc‐André Hamelin,” Rhode Island Chamber Music Concerts
Bruno, Gwen. “History of the Cedar Tree,” eHOW

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