Faux Grilling for City Dwellers

By Kristin Donnelly Posted March 30, 2007

The weather is gorgeous here in New York, and we’re in the middle of closing our annual June grilling issue. All signs point to having a backyard barbecue, except, alas, I have neither the backyard nor the grill. Last year around this time, I was dying to cook with a cedar plank to see whether it lived up to the hype (most people here were skeptical). I took one home and stored it for months, hoping I’d get a chance to try it on my parents' grill in suburban Philadelphia, but of course, I never remembered to bring it with me. Then, inspired by a friend’s delicious description of a cedar plank–grilled bluefish, I decided to try the same dish but without the grill. Many recipes often say, “Light a grill or preheat a broiler,” so why not plank-broil my fish?

I soaked the cedar for an hour in water per the instructions (a VERY important step) and then lightly coated the top with oil. I set my superfresh filet of bluefish on top and brushed it with a lemon-herb aioli (which was really just Hellmann’s mixed with minced garlic, a squeeze of lemon and a handful of chopped herbs), leaving some aside to serve at the table. Then, I put the plank in my preheated broiling drawer. As my apartment filled with a pleasant but disquieting wood-burning smell and ominous crackling noises escaped from my oven, I held my breath. After three minutes, I peeked, fearful that my experiment might engulf my apartment in flames, but the plank and fish looked fine. After another three or so minutes, I peered in again to find the mayonnaise glaze had developed appealing brown blisters that only broiling, not grilling, could create. When I tasted the juicy, lightly sweet wood-smoked fish, I knew I had discovered my favorite technique to quell my cravings to grill. Best of all, plank-broiling works well even in the frigid, icy winter and the comforting cedar scent makes it a great substitute for another rare luxury in a New York apartment: the fireplace.

If you try plank broiling, remember to soak the plank in advance and then check often when it's under the flame to make sure the wood doesn't actually burn. 

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