It’s easy to get wrapped up in recipes, to go through the motions as you follow them, to forget to consider what you’re actually doing. I do this all the time.
Over the years, for instance, I couldn’t tell you how many soy dressings, soy dipping sauces, and soy marinades I’ve made, each some combination of ginger, garlic, sugar, mirin, sake, oil, vinegar, and chili paste. Each has been unique in composition, but very similar at heart: a balance of salty and sweet, acid and fat, and often heat.
I’ve loved nearly all of these sauces, and yet I continue to try new recipes in this genre, and I continue to stuff my abounding recipe file with more newspaper and magazine clippings. When will the madness end?
Last Saturday, I spent the weekend with my parents in Connecticut. My mother made her dinner party favorite: cedar plank grilled salmon, sesame udon noodles, and a green salad loaded with dill. I returned home immediately wanting to make this summery meal, but as I began pulling the bottles from my pantry to make the salmon marinade and the noodle dressing, I paused: Did I really need to make both a dressing and a marinade? Could the noodle dressing perhaps play double duty?
As hoped, it could. One sauce, two roles—a revelation! With dinner prep (and clean up) decreased by half, this meal slipped into weeknight-friendly territory, requiring about 30 minutes of work: First, you make your multi-purpose sauce, some of which you use to briefly marinate the fish, during which time, you boil noodles, julienne cucumbers, and slice scallions. After 20 minutes or so, you place your fish-topped cedar plank on the grill. Five minutes later, the fish is done and ready to be served aside the noodle salad or, as here, broken into pieces and tossed with the noodles, vegetables, and sesame seeds.
Grilled fish, chilled noodles, cool cucumbers: summer in a bowl.
A Few Notes
Cedar planks: if you’ve yet to try plank grilling, I highly recommend it for several reasons. 1. It’s a very user-friendly experience—no sticking! No fish lost through the grates! 2. Flavor. A cedar (or other wood) plank will impart the fish with a subtle smokiness, which is especially nice if you are using a gas grill. That said, if you don’t have the planks, you could try the skillet-grilled method, or you could simply preheat your broiler. In the same amount of time—5 minutes or so—a 1- to 1.5-inch thick filet of salmon will emerge perfectly cooked (edges nicely charred, flesh cooked medium to medium-rare).
Fish: Wild Salmon is currently in season, which makes it a good option, but you can use any fish you like. Keep in mind the thickness, which will dictate how long it should be cooked—1- to 1.5-inch thick fillets will cook in 5 minutes on a hot grill; thinner fillets will cook even more quickly. Arctic char, striped bass, and steelhead trout would all work well here.
Noodles: I use soba often, but udon, rice noodles or even thin spaghetti can be substituted. Fresh udon, which are fat and chewy and hold up well in the fridge, too, are particularly good here.
- 1 cedar plank, soaked in cold water for 1 hour or longer
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons finely minced ginger
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 5-oz filets wild salmon, see notes above
- 6 ounces soba or udon noodles
- 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced, a mandoline or spiralizer is nice here
- 6 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds