1. Baking on a cedar plank imparts a subtle wood flavor to meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, and vegetables, adding warmth and complexity to any dish.
2. The baking planks are designed for baking in the oven and they last for years (even if they crack, you can place them on a baking sheet to catch any juices).
3. Wooden planks belong in a healthy cook's arsenal because, once seasoned the first time, they retain their moisture and require very little, if any, fat to prevent sticking.
4. Because wooden planks retain moisture, they help maintain the natural juices in meats and vegetables, keeping the food moist as well as flavorful.
Depending on where you get them (you can find food-grade cedar planks in the many grocery stores and in the cooking/gourmet section of your favorite kitchen store), baking planks typically come in two different varieties of wood, Western red cedar and alder. Cedar is more aromatic and adds a distinct woodsy flavor while alder is mild and slightly sweet. Before you use your baking plank for the first time, follow the manufacturer's instructions for "seasoning". It's a very simple process of oiling the plank with vegetable oil and a paper towel. You only need to oil the plank before the first use – but you can certainly add additional oils to flavor a dish before baking. For example, I seasoned the plank for the salmon below with a simple blend of rice vinegar and good-quality olive oil. The flavors on the plank blend with the wood to infuse flavor from the bottom, while an orange-teriyaki-sesame glaze imparts flavor from the top. It's a truly sensational dish that's simple to prepare yet astonishes a crowd. Trust me. Also, I nestled yellow tomatoes around the salmon because they looked particularly awesome the day I bought the fish. Feel free to use any awesome-looking vegetable you want. Great choices include zucchini, yellow squash, asparagus, bell peppers, corn, broccoli, cauliflower or green beans.
*A note about barbecue planks: also designed to impart a woodsy flavor while maintaining moisture in food, these planks are intended for one use only. They also require soaking before using to prevent the wood from burning. Baking planks require no soaking. When using barbecue/grilling planks, be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and rice vinegar. Rub the mixture all over a cedar plank. Arrange the salmon on top of the oil-vinegar coating, skin side down, and season the top with salt and pepper. Arrange the tomatoes around the salmon.
In a small bowl, whisk together the teriyaki sauce, orange juice, sesame oil, and Dijon mustard. Brush the mixture all over the top of the salmon. Bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the salmon and bake for 10 more minutes, until the salmon pulls apart with a fork. Sprinkle the top of the salmon with the cilantro and serve.