I was getting ready to grill salmon one night, planning to plank the fish and use the Grill EveryDay BBQ Rub on it, when I was inspired by my husband, Greg, who was making us vodka martinis with a twist of lemon. I thought, why not make a lemon-vodka marinade for the salmon? I had dill in the garden, the lemons and vodka were on the counter, and all I needed was some olive oil and seasonings. My suggestion is to make this recipe and mix a martini to go with it! Use any leftover salmon to make a composed salad with grilled vegetables or salad greens.
1 untreated alder plank, about 15 by 7 by 3/8 inch (see Cook’s Note at bottom of recipe)
1 whole side of salmon (about 3 pounds), skin on and scaled, pin bones removed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons vodka
Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Rinse the alder plank and place it in a pan, sink, or large leakproof plastic bag filled with water. Soak the plank for about 20 minutes. (The plank can be submerged in water and left to soak all day, so plan ahead and soak the plank before you leave for work.)
Prepare a medium fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on medium.
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, vodka, lemon zest, lemon juice, dill, salt, and pepper and mix thoroughly. Place the whole salmon fillet on a large, rimmed baking sheet and pour the marinade evenly over the top. Set aside while the grill heats.
When ready to grill, place the soaked plank on the grill grate directly over the medium fire and cover. After a few minutes, the plank will begin to smoke and crackle. Turn the plank over, re-cover, and “toast” the other side for about 2 minutes. Uncover the grill, transfer the salmon fillet to the plank, and then re-cover the grill. Cook the salmon until it is almost opaque throughout but still very moist when tested with a knife, or an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 125º to 130ºF, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet. (Keep a spray bottle with water nearby in case the plank gets too hot and begins to flame. Extinguish the flame and continue grilling the salmon, adjusting the heat level if necessary.)
Using 2 long spatulas, transfer the salmon to a warmed platter. Use tongs, heatproof gloves, or the spatulas to remove the plank from the heat and set it aside to cool. Cut the salmon into individual servings and serve immediately. Alternatively, for a rustic presentation, leave the salmon on the plank and place the plank on a large heatproof platter.
Purchase untreated alder, cedar, or oak planks from lumberyards or hardware stores and have them cut to size or cut them yourself. Or, for a slightly more expensive approach, buy precut planks specifically for grilling or baking salmon at gourmet cookware stores or online.
A plank can be reused if it isn’t too charred or cracked. Once the plank has cooled, brush it clean with a grill brush, set it upright to dry, and then store it in a brown paper bag. Resoak it before using.