Barbecued salmon has been part of Northwest Native American celebrations for eons. The potlatch, the English version of the Nootkan word “p’alshit,” which means “to give” was basically a ceremony that involved songs, rituals, dances, gift giving, and, of course, barbecued salmon.
Executive Chef Dan Ratigan has revived Potlatch Salmon for guests coming to The Fireside restaurant at The Resort at Port Ludlow on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. Pacific Northwest Native Americans weren’t pottery-making peoples and they used local resources that we’re readily available to them to cook their salmon, including cedar and ironwood.
For centuries, Native Northwesterners have cooked salmon on a wood frame before a wood fire. They would typicaly use a strong, straight branch split at one end and fit the salmon ongto the split. To hold the fish on so it would cook evenly, they’d thread the fish with additional sticks woven over and under the salmon. The fish was then leaned toward the fire and slow roasted. This indirect style of cooking creates a flavorful, super moist fish.
Chef Dan has borrowed from this cooking technique by strapping salmon to cedar planks and using specially designed stakes that surround his BBQ to cook his Potlatch Salmon for guests. You can also simply use your grill.
They’ve created a special Potlatch Salmon recipe, which they share with us here. Adjust ingredients to the amount of salmon you’re cooking.
Recipe courtesy The Resort at Port Ludlow, Port Ludlow, WA. www.portludlowresort.com/
½ lb brown sugar
¼ pound kosher salt
¼ oz black pepper
¼ oz dry dill
½ oz granulated garlic
To barbecue salmon:
Soak a cedar plank 2 hours in water (cedar planks are readily available from cooking stores). Remove skin and any remaining bones from salmon filet. Rinse fish under cold running water and pat dry. Season salmon with the Potlatch Salmon rub on both sides.
Lay that salmon (formerly skin side) on the cedar plank. Set grill for indirect grilling and heat to medium-high. Place the cedar plank in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook until cooked though, 20-30 minutes. The internal temperature should read 135 degrees F. Transfer salmon on the plank to a platter and serve right off the plank.