Most fish and seafood connoisseurs will agree that a salmon fillet grilled on a cedar plank is downright delicious. So, what do you do when you’re eight portages and roughly twelve miles into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness before you realize that you forgot to pack the cedar planks? Why you improvise, of course! And thus, the newly conceived slate planked lake trout dinner was born.
Of course, lake trout isn’t salmon. And a slab of rock is definitely not a cedar plank. But somehow, we made it work. Absolutely NONE of us went hungry!
Let’s Start with the Lake Trout
It was Minnesota’s fishing opener weekend. Although the air temperatures were unseasonably mild, the water was still ice cold. By committee our six-person group decided to forgo the walleye lurking within the waters directly in front of us and make the pilgrimage to pursue the elusive lake trout just two portages away from our base camp.
Half of our paddlers had, indeed, caught lake trout on previous trips. But there were three of us that wanted to add this beautiful, speckled fighter from the depths to our list of first-time catches.
Six hours later, deep diving Rapalas trolled about 20 feet down had rewarded us all with our wishes (or fishes, depending upon how you look at it.) In all, the group landed eleven lakers. Nine fortunate fish were released to fight another day. Two fine specimens hung from the stringer, intent on “joining us for dinner.”
Gentlemen, Start Your Campfires!
After the fish were properly filleted, it was time to begin the cooking of this slate plank lake trout recipe. We stoked the U.S. Forest Service Approved pit with wood, then went to work selecting the slate plank. Fortunately, there was the perfect flat specimen propped as part of the wind-blocking shield around the pit.
We placed the slate plank directly on the top of the cooking grate for preheating purposes, with the flames lapping hungrily at the underside of the rock. It took about 40 minutes of fierce flames to heat the slate plank completely through, but a few sprinkles of water sizzling on the top of the rock assured us we were ready to cook!
Time to Get Grilling those Lake Trout Fillets
To season the fillets, we started with cross cuts across the flesh. A short cut each way, angled to cross each other like an X. We proceeded to place these X cuts all the way down the fillet from top to tail, then placed pats of butter into the cuts so when melted, it would penetrate the flesh.
We finished off the seasoning by sprinkling Adobo spice powder (a blend of garlic powder, oregano, onion powder and ground peppercorns) over the top of the fish, then placed the fillets skin-side down on the slate plank to cook.
Slow, But Sure
Since the fillets were fairly thick the cooking process took some time. It was almost 15 minutes before the fish was cooked fully through. We never did flip the fillets during the process as we wanted to keep the skin side touching the rock. The slow cooking combined with pools of butter and campfire smoke seemed to keep the flesh tender, acting almost like a smoking technique rather than a frying process.
Time To Dive In!
When the moment of taste-test truth finally came, no-one was disappointed. The fish was tender yet flaky with a taste so fresh and satisfyingly buttery that we didn’t stop eating until we made every last bite disappear.
Cleanup on Campsite 9
After dinner was done, we cleaned off any cooking remains from the slate surface, just like we were washing a cookie sheet. Once cleaned, we moved the rock plank into the lake to cool off, then replaced it in its rightful spot as a wind block, leaving no trace of our cooking escapades.
Could we have fried the lake trout in a pan of hot oil and obtained similar results? Probably. But where’s the adventure in that? Instead, we completed a successful experiment that made us feel a little like pioneers and a little like gourmet wild game chefs. When all was said and done it easily became our most memorable meal of any camping trip … ever!
What was your most memorable outdoor meal ever? We’d love to hear about it or see pictures … you can share either in the comments box below or email it to us at ParkYourselfOutdoors@gmail.com. Wondering where Meandering Mike and Parker Flatly are going to park themselves next? Well wonder no more! You’ll never miss another post when you sign up for E-mail Notifications here! Thanks for reading. Now fire up that campfire and let’s get cookin’!