Cedar Bite: Blueberry-Ancho Glazed Salmon

I love creating recipes. It’s not something I do often, but when I do there is nothing like the sense of accomplishment when you bring an idea to the canvas, create a masterpiece, and then savor it with great gusto as each of the flavors pop in your mouth and remind of what a great job you have done.

For a lot of people in the US, summer means grilling season. While I personally don’t do much of it, I will admit that grilling and the barbecue are some of the richest culinary traditions in America. Hence I created this festive recipe in time for the recent fourth of July holiday, but I forgot to post on time. Oh well, at least you could easily make it for dinner tonight and be just as happy.

I have read, watched, and heard a lot about grilling on a cedar plank. Much like how you would add hickory or maple chips to a grill, cedar planks impart a woody and smoky flavor to whatever foods are cooked on them. I paired the plank with a fillet of salmon. Why I cook with salmon all the time is no mystery. I love how salmon is deliciously thick and meaty, and it holds up on its own when cooked, unlike other flaky rats of the sea. It’s also quite mild in flavor, contrary to what many people seem to believe.

I believe that all fish appear to have a inherent degree of sweetness, so why not bring it out? I paired sweet blueberries with smoky ancho chilies. Embellished with smoked paprika, tart lime juice, and sticky maple syrup, the glaze has notes of sweet, sour, spicy, and best of all smoky. The smoky flavor is only further enhanced by the cedar plank which also adds a woodsy note and keeps the fish undeniably moist, flaky, and a little bit sweet. I don’t know what will be juicier, the fish or your salivating mouth, but the bottom line is that your grill is going to be on and you are going to be planking up this fish before you know it.

Recipe: Blueberry-Ancho Glazed Salmon

Ingredients

  • about 3/4 lb salmon (which yields three 1/4 pound portions)
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 dried ancho chili pods
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt to taste

Method

Marinate the salmon in some salt, pepper, and lime juice in the fridge for about 30 minutes. In another bowl reconstitute the dried ancho chilies in hot water for about 30 minutes. Once the chilies are soft, remove the pits and seeds and then puree the chilies with the garlic in a food processor or blender until smooth and well-incorporated. Place some oil in a medium saucepan and toast the pureed chili-garlic mixture, paprika, chipotle powder, and cayenne pepper over medium high heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Then add the blueberries, maple syrup, and salt to taste. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes till the mixture has thickened and reduced. Turn off the heat and then set the mixture aside to cool. Place the salmon fillets on two greased cedar planks which have been soaked in water overnight. If you don’t soak the planks, they will burn on the grill. Slather on some glaze over the salmon and place the planks on a grill over medium-low heat. The heat of the can be adjusted based on the strength of your grill, but what you basically want is a gentle environment in which the salmon can cook nice and slowly. Grill the salmon on the planks for about 15-20 minutes, till it is juicy, flakes easily, and opaque on the inside. About halfway through the cooking process, slather some additional glaze on top of the salmon. Serve hot either off or on the plank with lime wedges for squeezing juice on top.

Cooking Notes:

  • You can find cedar planks in most grocery and hardware stores. If you are in the grocery store, look for them by the seafood counter, and in hardware stores, look in the grilling aisle.
  • If you don’t want to grill, you can alternatively roast the salmon in a 300 degree Farenheit oven for about 30 minutes. The salmon will be just as juicy and tender.
  • Ancho chili pods can be found in the Mexican aisle of most grocery stores.
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