Friday, September 15, 2006

rock the plank

My tiny kitchen has seen a lot of good days and some very, very bad days. (Serves me right for trying to cook while watching a Project Runway marathon!) But despite a few disastrous meals, I don't let it stop me from tackling new recipes or just blindly creating a new one on the spot. On my way home from work, I love stopping by the grocery store and picking up whatever looks fresh or interesting that day (even if I don't have a clue how it tastes or even how to prepare it!). And by hook or by crook, I usually end up with something interesting (well, at least edible) that I may or may not ever attempt again.

But my new culinary obsession promises that there will be fewer cooking catastrophes in my future -- the almost idiot-proof wood grill plank. Where has this guy been all my life?? I made salmon filets with an asparagus side last week that were so delicious, I'm still having dreams about them. Yum!! Seriously, with no fuss and very little seasoning, you end up with moist and flavorful food that tastes like it's been marinating for days! While traditionally the plank is used on outdoor grills, I've been using it in my oven to grand results. You just may want to place it on a cookie sheet to catch all the char that burns off.

Remember to soak the plank in water for about a hour before putting it on the heat. (Wood burns. Duh.) But after that, it's smooth sailing. Just lay your stuff (fish, meat, veggies) flat on the plank, season with a little olive oil, salt and pepper (to taste) and stick it in the oven. The food will roast in its own juices and soak up the fragrant wood smoke from the plank. Next time, I'm going to try soaking the planks in beer or wine -- hopefully it will have a totally new flavor!

I'm a fan of Fire & Flavor's planks, which come in cedar, alder and maple varieties. And they're really affordable too -- about $8 for three. Williams-Sonoma has one with a fish-shaped, cast metal holder so you can transfer the plank easily. You could even pick up a generic plank for pennies at the hardware store. Just make sure that it's completely untreated -- if there are any chemicals on the board, they'll end up in your food.

While at a food media event earlier this year, I was introduced to Callison's Seasoned Skewers, which borrow from the concept of wood plank cooking but take it to a whole new level. The wood skewers have already been seasoned with different flavors and natural-oils so marinating is done automatically from the inside! No salt, pepper or anything needed. Genius! And they come in great flavors, from mango curry and coconut lime to garlic herb and Mexican fiesta. Just a few weeks ago, my salad was looking quite sad, so I popped some shrimp on a citrus-rosemary skewer, seared it quickly in a pan and added it to my greens. Awww, yeah! It was out of this world, and I basically did nothing to it. Best meal I've ever made in 30 seconds!


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