What’s more satisfying than cooking outside around a fire? The Finnish technique of Loimulohi, pronounced low-e-mow-low-he, is surprisingly simple but requires good control of your fire. Bathed in the wafting smoke of an open flame and brushed with a brandy-maple glaze, you may never want to cook salmon any other way.
1 (10-20 inches) long plank of wood (cedar, oak, hickory, poplar, ash, or walnut), soaked in water at least 4 to 5 hours.
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1½ tablespoons brandy
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 portion (8 to 12 ounces) salmon (preferably king)
PREP THE WOOD PLANK
At least 4 hours ahead, soak the wood plank in water.
MAKE BRANDY MAPLE GLAZE
In a small bowl, combine the maple syrup, brandy, ¼ teaspoon salt, and orange zest together and set aside.
PREPARE THE FIRE
Prepare a wood fire. Allow 15 to 20 minutes for the flames to die down. Once the wood begins to break into chunks of red hot coals, about 30 to 40 minutes, the fire will be ready.
PREPARE THE SALMON
Meanwhile, pat salmon dry and season with salt. Lay the fish on the soaked plank with the thickest area pointing down. Nail the fish to the plank using a hammer and 3 nails in a triangle or square pattern. For tail portions make a triangle, and for larger center cuts make a square.
COOK THE FISH
Prop the wooden plank vertically next to the fire, about 2 feet away from the center of the coal bed. It should be downwind to allow the smoke to “baste” your fish. To get a consistent slow and low heat hold your hand directly in front of the fish, about 1 inch away, and count to 10. If your hand gets really hot by the count of 5 the fire is too close. Move the coals further away. If you can count to 15 and your hand is not too hot then your fire is too far away. Bring some coals closer to the fish. Continue to monitor the level of heat for the next 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the thickness of your fish.
Periodically brush the salmon with the maple-brandy glaze throughout cooking. When the middle begins to flake, carefully remove the salmon from the heat. Allow the fish to rest for a few minutes on the plank. Remove the nails, and dig in!
Keep 2 to 3 extra logs nearby to feed the fire while you are cooking. If the heat is dying, feed the fire from the opposite side of where you placed the plank and the fish. One log at a time will be sufficient to keep consistent heat.
The lower and slower you go, the more smoky and tender your fish will be.
Don't cook with pine. The smoke is harsh and acrid, plus the wood burns too quickly to get good coals. Use anything that doesn't have high resin levels.
If you forget to soak your wooden plank, you will likely get charred wood on your salmon. You need to soak it, even if it's just for an hour.
If you get some ash on your fish, just brush it off before eating.