I just discovered these cedar wraps at my local Whole Wallet, and they sounded like a good idea. You get eight per pack, and a long length of twine. They work like cedar planks on your grilled fish, but seem to be more cost-effective — oh, yes, you get more cedar with the planks, but you really don’t need all that cedar, now, do you? Also, you don’t have to soak them as long before use, so if you are hungry, you can get going all the sooner.
Most planks say soak two hours. The cedar planks say at least five minutes. I soaked these for about half an hour or so (while I was prepping the fire, the potatoes and the fish).
Traditionally, salmon (or another salmonid fish, such as Arctic char, steelhead trout, or regular trout) is used on cedar planks. I decided to experiment with both salmon and bluefish fillets. And I cooked up some scalloped gold potatoes at the same time. NOTE: the potatoes should go on the grill BEFORE the fish, if you are using them. The grilled potato recipe is at the latter portion of this post, even though both ideas ended up thrilling my taste buds to no end.
Bluefish to the left, Salmon to the right
* Cedar Wraps — one each for each 1/4 to 1/3 pound fish fillet (A note for larger fillets below…)
* 1 fish fillet, 1/4 to 1/3 pound, per wrap. I used a 1/4 pound bluefish fillet and a 1/3 pound salmon fillet.
* Ground white pepper
* Other seasonings of your choice (I kept this very simple because I wanted to see what flavors the cedar added to this, but lemon, lemon pepper, Italian herbs, etc. could be options.)
A note about bluefish: I find the smaller fillets are the most tasty. The older, bigger ones have been around the pond a bit too much.
Soak the cedar wraps in water. Ignition of the wrap is not a good idea… Five minutes minimum, but I’d probably still do at least twenty.
Get your grill going. I have a charcoal grill and I start it with a charcoal chimney using Royal Oak lump charcoal, not the self-igniting stuff. I find myself feeling sickened when I inhale charcoal starter fluid — get the charcoal chimney and some newspaper — those ubiquitous fliers that land in your mailbox do wonders, and are free — some kitchen matches or one of those squeeze the trigger lighter things. If you have another type of grill, get that going. I don’t have expertise on other grill types, so use what you’ve probably already learned. But keep in mind the distinction between indirect and direct fire, as it still applies.
Wrap your (seasoned) fillet with the wrap, and tie. Lay the fish skin side down (or outer side down if it happens to be skinless). If you run out of the supplied twine, be sure not to use nylon!
One of the benefits of being able to wrap around the fish is that you get the benefit of both sides receiving a cedar infusion throughout the process of cooking. If you have a larger fillet, either 1) tie it to the wrap leaving the top side exposed, and not flip it into cooking, 2) place it on the wrap without tying it, so you can (carefully) flip it half way through, or 3) put one wrap on the bottom and another on top, before tying.
When your charcoal is nice and hot, red and fiery, pour it onto one side of your grill, add the grilling grate, and let it cook there for a bit. Clean down with a little oil and a grill scrubber.
Add the fish, off to the side (indirect heat). Cover. I leave the grill lid holes about half-open (all the time, actually — at this point they are probably frozen in place!)
In about 8-10 minutes, check. You can flip for 3 or 4 minutes, if you like. This will depend on the heat in your grill, your fish thickness, and your preferred level of done-ness. The exposed portions of the fish should appear flakey and (if salmon) no longer that salmon-pink.
Remove and serve.
Grilled Scalloped Potatoes
Before putting the fish on the grill: Prep and start cooking the potatoes. I prefer the gold potatoes over ANY other style. Russets are, to my taste buds, bland and starchy, and regular blue potatoes are bland and dry. There’s a certain creaminess gold potatoes have, especially when I source them super fresh at farmers’ markets. I like Yukon golds, red golds and blue golds, and probably anything else that has that rich yellow flesh inside.
* 2 or 3 medium potatoes.
* Olive or avocado oil, about a teaspoon or so
* 1/3 teaspoon ground ancho chili pepper — if you are feeling more adventurous, ground chipotle pepper would be wonderful. (Pensey’s sells good varieties.)
* Salt and pepper to taste
Scrub down the potatoes, cutting off any bad spots. (There are two schools of thought on potatoes: some say leave the skins on for nutrition, others say remove due to phytotoxins that concentrate in the skin. I’m not sure which is the best, health-wise, so I generally opt to leave skins on (they’re thinner on gold potatoes than russets, anyway), cutting off buds, bad spots and anything that looks green. I don’t eat potatoes often enough that it matters to me one way or the other (potatoes, like most starchy foods, apply themselves directly to my hips and midsection, and I SOoooo did not lose 40 pounds to return to any sort of “high carb” plan), and yes, I’m lazy, and the skins don’t taste bad. At any rate, peeling is at your discretion.)
Using a mandoline, or some good knife skills, scallop the potatoes. On the mandoline, the setting was at 3/8ths of an inch, this thing’s largest size, and perfectly good for the purpose.
Place in the grill pan (use a grill pan/basket with holes in the bottom), spreading them out. Wipe down with olive oil, using a paper towel as you put them there. Add the seasonings, mixing gently with fingers or a large spoon.
When the grill is ready for food, put the grilling pan/basket on the grill, not directly under the flames.
Grilled Scalloped Potatoes with Ancho Chili Powder
Now go in and prep and tie up your cedar wraps around your fish. After about fifteen or twenty minutes, add the fish to the grill — if the fire is not too flaming, you can move the potatoes more over the direct heat — be sure to use a good spatula to mix the potatoes gently around a bit. I use a silicon spatula with a long handle for safety.
Every few minutes I mix the potatoes some more.
Finished Dinner & Verdict
When done, the potatoes are just slightly au dente (if you like them less so, cook longer before adding the fish wraps). I think Russets might crumple up faster than golds, so keep that in mind if you really must have russets.
Remove everything from the grill and let rest about five minutes. Serve with a leafy green salad; and I think guests would probably enjoy unwrapping their own personal fillets. As for me, I ate both fillets for dinner (nobly, I needed to do a taste comparison — well, no — I was hungry; I’m never much noble about food…) and about half the scalloped potatoes.
Removing stuff from the grill — in the center are some lamb sliders which I’d simply thrown on the grill for a future meal. Just not wasting the charcoal!
The cedar taste came through very well and was complementary with both bluefish and salmon. Because of the cedar pretty much enclosing both the skin side and the flesh side of the fish throughout the grilling process, the cedar taste was more pronounced — in a pleasing way — than when done on a plank. To be honest, sometimes when cooked on a plank, I’m hard pressed to discern much cedar flavor at all.
I will be experimenting with other types of fish.
The potatoes were excellent this way — in the past when I’ve done the foil-covered whole potato grilled thing, I always got impatient to add the meat, seafood, and other veggies well before the potatoes had time to get cooked long enough. The same has been true when I’ve tried to grill them quartered. Perhaps this is because most recipes call for Russets, which as noted, I dislike, or maybe it is because of my innate impatience to get everything going and cooking when I am at the grill.
I will stock up on cedar wraps, in case Whole Wallet only intends to sell these seasonally. I don’t mind grilling outside so long as the temps are above at least 40 degrees F.