A la plancha is a type of cooking that is light, flavorful, intense, exceptionally fresh and generally regarded as healthy. Th e secret is la plancha which translates to “the griddle.” Unlike the stainless steel 350°F griddles we use in American kitchens, the plancha is usually much hotter (450°F+) wood or charcoal fired, and can be made of carbon steel, cast-iron or slate. Popular in the Mediterranean and closely associated with Spain, this style of cooking is frequently used for preparing seafood, and often performed within footsteps of the docks where the day’s catch arrived. Because of the higher temperatures used, seafood cooks very quickly while still benefiting from caramelization, occasional charring, and the accumulated flavoring of the porous and well seasoned
Cooking a la plancha allows exceptional ingredients to be served in an honest, unadorned, rustic manner that reflect many menu trends. This method brings out the best in the high quality fresh and local or premium frozen seafood Maines provides. Selections available through Maines Just In Time Fresh Seafood program such as shrimp, scallops and calamari really shine when cooked a la plancha. This cooking method appeals to customers who are looking for fresh, light, low-fat and flavorful dishes. In addition to seafood, fresh produce can also be cooked a la plancha for intense and delicious vegetarian preparations.
Many chefs are returning to their regional seafood roots, and in a lot of cases back in time, to reinvigorate time-honored traditions and local heritage. Particularly in regions known for their local catch (think Maine lobsters and Maryland crabs), traditional dinners and restaurant features are built on a shoreside clambake, crab, or shrimp boil. A tip of the hat to cultural preservation is becoming very popular, and customers are flocking to establishments showcasing authenticity and reverence.
The freshest, seasonal seafood works best for a la plancha recipes. With advancements in frozen seafood technology, many of Maine’s IQF fresh-frozen products have seen less ambient temperatures than the freshest fish available. Either way, always consider using a seafood species indigenous to the area from which a cooking method hails; in this case, Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean near Spain and Portugal. While a cast-iron flat top grill that allows you to cook at higher than average temperatures is the typical apparatus for cooking a la plancha, method lends itself to a variety of applications and situations.
There are many options such as electric multi-pans or induction planchas. The plancha is also portable so it can be brought to off -site events and used at action stations, offering a unique alternative to the traditional dinner or buffet.
To add a la plancha dishes to your menu, start small and simple. A light calamari or shrimp appetizer, composed salad, or a small or shared plate would be an ideal starting point. Th ere are some ingredient combinations that lend themselves well to la plancha. Spanish preparations are a given; consider fish with a romesco sauce or a juicy steak with chimichurri. But don’t stop there. Get creative with different international flavor profiles. Try lamb with a Greek or Moroccan twist, or for vegetarians, thinly sliced vegetables like zucchini. Since it’s essentially a flat-top, plancha cooking can be used to dish up grilled cheese or breakfast items such as omelets.
Plancha cooking is highly versatile. From there, engage with customers and get their feedback. They’ll determine whether a la plancha has a future on your menu.