Pesto Encrusted Tilefish Grilled on a Maple Plank

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I have a new addiction.  Wood boards. 

Sexy huh?  I mean as far as addictions go, an addiction to wood just sounds... well, strange.  And boring.  But have no fear, I won't be featured on "My Strange Addiction" anytime soon.  My obsession with wood involves cooking with it rather than eating it, so we're good. 

I hope.

And no, I am not just discovering the wonders that is grilling with planks.   I have grilled with wood planks in the past, although it has been a pretty long time.  When we only had a charcoal grill to work with, grilling with planks was a little frustrating (I've never been accused of having the patience of a saint).   Maintaining a charcoal grill at a steady high heat for 30+ minutes did not always prove to be and easy task for me.  Admittedly, that has more to do with my skills than the capabilities of a charcoal grill.    

Now that we have a gas grill (which I've also become obsessed with - as in we use it at least 3 to 4 times a week), I decided to give the planks another chance. 

And damn I'm glad I did.  The fish was incredible.  

Scott said it's the best fish I've ever made - better even than the first meal I ever cooked for him that led him to fall madly in love with me (at least that's how I remember it).  So, I made it twice in one weekend.  That's right - same exact meal twice in a 72 hour period using the left over pesto, only different type of fish.  And I will probably make it again this weekend.  I take obsessions to the next level.  Go big or go home.

The flavor is remarkable.  Grilling fish, or any other protein for that matter, on a plank infuses it with the most amazing smoky flavor. And any time I can add flavor without adding additional calories or fat I am tempted to do a happy dance.  But I don't - me dancing is not pretty.   In fact, its down right frightening.

Grilling fish on planks is also a simple and full proof way to grill fish.  Grilling fish without cooking accessories is no walk in the park.  Fish tends to bond itself to the grill grates on impact, causing it to tear into a billion pieces when you try to flip it, leading the unfortunate cook to violently scrape what has not fallen through the grates off the grill, feed it to the dog, and demand to go out to dinner at 9:00 pm.  Hypothetically.

When using a plank, all you have to do is set that puppy (the plank, not the dog) on the grill and leave it for 15 minutes or so (and check on it from time to time to make sure the plank has not gone up in flames).  

For even more flavor, try soaking the planks in wine or juice, or even adding some fresh herbs to the liquid while soaking.     You can also use wood planks to grill steaks, chicken, pork tenderloin, or any other type of meat.  Trust me, if you cook a steak on one of these planks after soaking it in red wine and some fresh thyme, it will be the most tender and  scrumptious steak you have ever consumed in your life.  I cannot tell a lie (I can, but try not to when it comes to food).

Make it.

Pesto Encrusted Tilefish Grilled on a Maple Plank
Serves: 2
Prep Time:  1 hour (to soak board, actual hands on prep is 15 minutes)
Cook Time:  15-20 minutes
Total Time:  1 hour 20 minutes*

1 plank (I used maple, but have also used alder, cedar and hickory)
1 1/2 pounds of white flaky fish (I used Tile Fish)
3 cups of lightly packed fresh basil
1/2 cup of pine nuts
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 clove of garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste 

Fill sink or a casserole dish large enough to accommodate the wood plank with enough water to completely cover plank (you may need to set a a heavy weighted object like a jar of pasta sauce on top of the plank to keep it under water).  Allow plank to soak for at least an hour.  Meanwhile, add basil, pine nuts, Parmesan and garlic to a food processor.  Blend until the ingredients are finely chopped.  Add olive oil and blend until combined (you can slowly add the olive oil in a slow stream while the blade is running to ensure you reach your desired consistency - I like my pesto a little think, especially for coating fish).  Preheat grill to high heat.  Remove plank from water and pat dry.  Arrange fish on plank and top with the pesto.  Using your hands, coat fish on all side with the pesto.  Add plank to the grill, cover and allow to cook 15-20 minutes until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Keep a spray bottle by the grill while cooking to use if the board catches on fire (which can happen from time to time but shouldn't if you soak the board long enough).  Serve immediately.

*TIP:  Buy several planks and soak them all at the same time.  Freeze the unused planks.  That way, you can can just pull the plank out of the freezer and pop it on the grill a minute or so before you add the fish.  It will cut cooking time down to about 20 minutes.  


  1. This looks SO yummy I must try it! I cooked your honey dijon mustard chicken thigh recipe last night and it was a big hit! Thanks for sharing loving your blog

    1. I'm so glad you liked the chicken Dominique. This fish gives it a run for its money though!

  2. OMG, OMG. Uh, MUST get myself a plank and do this one, stat. This is what makes life worth living!

  3. Yum that looks like a great recipe, thanks for sharing :)

  4. Thank you for sharing. Can this recipe also be fine in an oven, instead of using a grill? I would also, like to be added to your email list. Thanks again.

  5. I'm sure you can do this in the oven. Just be sure you soak the plank at least an hour before, put the plank in the oven for about 10 or 15 minutes before you put the fish on the plank, and keep an eye on it while cooking. I would cook at 375-400 degrees and check after 15 or 20 minutes for doneness.


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