Thursday Dinner: Pineapple-Planked Cod

We know why smoking works so well as a cooking method. Low heat creates smoke for flavor and cooks meat or fish at the same time. When you don’t have hours of time to smoke, you move to planking. Fillets or smaller cuts of salmon, chicken or pork come off the grill imparted with the flavor of the wood, thanks to high heat and a block of soaking wet cedar, alder, or maple.

But maybe you don’t want wood. Maybe you are cooking a mild, white fish like cod and want something more tropical and fruity. Pineapple skins make a suitable substitute for wood and achieve that flavor-related goals of turning cod fillets into something less smoky. Typically, you see this type of treatment for salmon but I really don’t like the pink fish. The common ground in my house for filleted fish is cod. It flakes well, has a mild flavor, and responds well to just about every possible flavor.

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The key is preserving the exterior of the pineapple as best as you can. Simply carving out the fruit with a knife may damage its walls, so it’s worth picking up one of those pineapple corers that twists rings out of the fruit and avoids the woody core. It’s a pretty handy device to own above and beyond this recipe. Pineapples run between $3.99 and $5.99 whole, and you make your money back on this tool after a couple of uses.

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Once you get the pineapple out of the shell, a quick pineapple salsa is the perfect accent to the fish. I made a basic pineapple, onion and cilantro salsa, but a little serrano or jalepeño pepper will raise the heat.

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WHAT WORKED: Cod isn’t the end all here. Tilapia, branzino, sole or catfish will work here as well, depending on what is in season and what you can obtain.

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WHAT DIDN’T: I used a litttttttttle too much cayenne for The Wife’s liking. I drew it back in the recipe below.

EASE OF PREPARATION: Medium-easy. People get intimidated by pineapple, but shouldn’t.

BEST FOR: Weeknights or weekends. This is versatile and easy to make on any day of the week.

SERVE WITH: Tortilla chips for the salsa. I made black beans and rice as a side, but you could ixnay the rice, add some flour tortillas and make tacos.

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Pineapple-Planked Cod
  • 1 medium pineapple, cored, fruit and shell reserved
  • 1 lb. cod fish fillets
  • handful of cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • juice of one lime
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 2 full twists of a black pepper grinder
  • zest of one lemon
  • pinch of herbes de provence

With a large, sharp knife, cut off the base of the pineapple shell and discard it along with the core. Slice the shell in half the long way and set aside.

Reserve 2/3 of the fruit for snacking or other uses. Cut the remaining pineapple into small chunks and add to a medium-sized mixing bowl, followed by the cilantro, onion, chilies (if you desire), a pinch of salt and the lime juice. Toss with a large spoon and refrigerate until ready to use.

Add the cayenne, salt, pepper, lemon zest and herbes de provence in a small bowl. Combine thoroughly with a spoon.

On a clean working surface, such as a baking sheet, lay your two pineapple planks flat. Set your fish fillets in an even layer on the shells, distributing the fish between the two pieces of pineapple to fit. Sprinkle the cod with the spice blend to coat the tops.

Preheat your grill on the highest possible setting so that the internal temperature reaches at least 600 degrees. Transfer the pineapple shells to one side of the grill's cooking surface and close the lid. Cook 7 to 9 minutes, or until the cod is flaky and white completely through.

Remove the fish from the grill and serve with the pineapple salsa. Discard the shells.

By Jared Paventi

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