I have been wanting to cook and braai on wood since first seeing this technique on Iron Chef America, one of my favourite cooking shows. Luckily this is now all possible with the introduction of Geobasket’s fabulous braai (barbecue) planks. Also known as ‘grilling planks’, these aromatic pieces of wood come in pure Maple, Alder and Oak.
I asked my friend Fritz from Real Men Can Cook to collaborate with me on this experiment because he is a full-on braai expert and I on the other hand am not.
We plotted and planned, set a date, and thought up a few recipes ideas to try out on the planks.
Matching the flavour of the wood to food is similar to a food and wine pairing. We also threw some wine in the mix and soaked the Alder plank in red wine for the steak.
This is how I matched the wood:
- Alder – Steak
- Maple – pork
- Oak – brie and Parma ham
- Oak – marinaded black mushrooms
You need to soak the planks for at least an hour in water or another liquid. We soaked the Alder in red wine and the maple in apple juice overnight to really let the liquid (and flavour) sink in.
These are our 4 recipes:
1. parma ham wrapped brie with thyme and garlic bruschetta
Here I added a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves onto the wedge of brie, and then wrapped it in 4 thin slices of Parma ham (purchased from Giovanni’s). We put it on the plank and cooked it with the lid off for about 5 minutes until the cheese was melted and started to ooze out.
After we removed the cheese we then drizzled olive oil over sliced ciabatta bread and toasted these on the plank until just nice and toasty brown on each side.
When I say this is beyond delicious, I mean it is truly beyond delicious.
2. black mushrooms marinated in garlic, chilli, olive oil and pesto
This could not be easier and requires simply mixing up a marinade of:
- 1 clove of garlic crushed
- 1 small red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
- 1 T of pesto
- 1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil
- salt and pepper
Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and toss 2 large black mushrooms in the dressing ensuring that you drizzle some of it into the mushroom ‘gills’. Place on the planks with the gills and stem facing upwards to ensure that all the juice stays in. Cook covered until the mushroom is soft and juice but still retains its firmness. You will know when its done.
Before and after shots above.
These are wonderful to serve on their own as a side dish for a braai (barbecue), or for a vegetarian as their main meal.
We popped one into a sesame seed bun which we had cut in half and toasted on the inside. Spread with a little more pesto and rocket leaves, this made a perfect vegetarian burger. The crumbled blue cheese was also a winning combination for these burgers.
You could also slice them up and top on a toasted garlicy bruschetta as we did with the brie cheese.
3. pork fillet coated in honey and mustard with grilled apples
The classic flavour combination of honey and mustard worked beautifully with this pork fillet. Paired with slices of apple which we grilled on the plank, left us smacking our lips all over the place.
I soaked the Maple plank in apple juice overnight
For this marinade work on a ratio of 2:1 honey to mustard. So 2T of runny honey to 1T of Dijon mustard. Mix. Fritz lightly coated the meat in salt and pepper and olive oil and then briefly seared this on the open grid before placing it on the plank and then coating it in the honey & mustard sauce. Cook this until the met is no longer pink. Slice up an apple into wedges and slices and place these around the fillet on the plank and cook. slice the meat into medallions and drizzle the leftover sauce over everything and tuck in.
We couldn’t particularly detect the apple juice flavour in the recipe but this could be a combination of the wood fire smoke and the strong flavours in the sauce. This may be picked up more strongly if you were to be cooking on a gas braai/barbecue.
We simply had to check out a classic steak in our plank braai experiment.
4. Grilled sirloin steak
Nothing beats a piece of aged sirloin steak cooked to perfection on fire and Fritz is pretty famous for his. There are a whole lot of variables that go into making the perfect steak and I started my lesson with how to build the perfect fire.
In our collab Fritz took care of all the action/ cooking shots, so you will need to go over to his blog post on it to check it out.