The longer I live in New York City, the less I cook. Not that I don’t enjoy making kugel or curry, but my energy is needed elsewhere right now. Most of my time is spent schlepping, sleeping, doomscrolling, boozing, and adding that essential 652nd item to my Etsy favorites list. It’s something I’ve come to accept warmly, like a pad of butter in the sun.
That doesn’t mean, however, that I’ll settle for a bleh rotation of the few homemade meals that fill up my week. If I’m making what my Midwestern mother calls my “tofu thing,” I’ll use a really nice Sichuan chile crisp; if I’m frying eggs, I’ll sprinkle some gourmet Maldon salt on top. So, when the Instagram algorithm blessed me with this enticing recipe of beets baked on cedar planks, I fell in love with vegetables all over again.
The recipe is by @gabbriette, who deserves to be showered in rubies and oysters for all the joy and 90s eyebrow inspiration she brings to my feed. As delish as the zesty crème fraîche and goat cheese sauce in her video looked, I was most intrigued by the cedar planks she used to give her beets a subtle, smoky flavor from the oven.
As a grill-less, patio-less, very lazy person, I imagined the road to Flavortown that these planks could pave for me. So, I smashed that order button on one of the most highly rated plank sets on Amazon, and pulled out my wilting fridge veggies for a smoky swan song.
The packaging on these planks is very Liver-King-core, and each set of the Primal Grilling cedar planks bundle presents your five slabs of wood in a burlap-ish package that would make a sick housewarming gift, White Elephant item, or present for your parents or food-obsessed pal.
These Primal planks have a 4.7-star average rating from over 1,200 ratings on Amazon, which is hella impressive, given the unhinged nature of many *chef’s kiss* Amazon reviews. They didn’t smell at all chemical-y when I unwrapped them, either. Instead, I got a whiff of a woodsy scent that gave me a comforting, nostalgic feeling for the Canadian lumberjack past I never had. I think the Germans call that Fernweh?
What was rad
I had high expectations for these planks, and imagined them saving my beets and carrots from the notorious crisper-drawer-to-trash-can pipeline. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown out barely used bundles of herbs, veggies, and boxed spring salad mix from the fridge. So, I lined up the following from my kitchen for an easy oven bake:
- Fresh rosemary
- Fresh thyme
- Garlic clove
- Goat Cheese
- Maldon salt
A few other tools and tasties I used included a mandoline for slicing my beets, because Gabbriette and my plant-based recipe queen Sophia Roe told me to; my trusty eight-inch iMarku blade, which is one of the best fancy chef’s knives under $50 that your clams can buy; a big-ass baking sheet with a lip; and my Nicolas Alziari French olive oil, which brings a buttery, slightly nutty flavor to everything.
Before you do anything, remember: You must soak your planks in water. The recommended time is one hour, but I did two just to be safe. Then, I lightly oiled up my planks, tossed on my seasoned veggies, and roasted them for about an hour at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. During the last ten minutes, I turned down the heat a bit, tossed on my herbs, and absolutely gobsmacked my nose with a newfound aroma of veggies and cedar. It was mouthwateringly woodsy and smoky, but not in an overwhelming way—more in a “my vegetables have been at a Finnish sauna” way. And amazingly, my planks—which I had convinced myself would combust in the oven—were not even charred.
I spread some tahini on my plate, positioned my veggies and avocado like a serial killer, and then garnished it all with Maldon salt, more olive oil, goat cheese, and some chili flakes. I also recommend enjoying this refined meal with a cold glass of Grüner Veltliner, which pairs nicely with the delicate, tingly pine of the planks.
Not one beet was left behind. My planks were unscathed, easy to clean, and still give me that tingly mouth feeling just thinking about them—they’re just that bomb. Not only that, but they made me feel like a hot granny hedgehog, sprinkling my herbs over planks of wood.
What was tricky
These MOFOs float! That’s tricky, when you need to soak them. So I weighed mine down with a cast-iron skillet, but you could also just ask your sub to sit on them for an hour. The possibilities are endless.
Are you a hot, lazy person who likes to cook but doesn’t have the bandwidth right now? Do you want an easy way to make the vegetables, fish, and meats in your life more interesting than most of the people you hang out with? Consider cedar planks your new summer accomplice for impressing everyone with food that tastes like you actually know what you’re doing. From the grill to the oven, they can give everything a subtle smoky flavor (think, the ghost of wood, or wood if it was from a Miyazaki movie) that isn’t overbearing in a mezcal-smoke way, but mouthwatering in a more more of a playful, camphoraceous way that just adds more layers and complexity to your ingredients. See? We’re sounding fancy already.
In other words, as someone whose summertime food groups are usually Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and stuff I did not bake myself, these trusty cedar planks have me hooked. I can’t imagine popping anything in the oven without them.
You can find the Primal Grilling cedar planks on Amazon.
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