Friday, May 15, 2009

Home-cured gravlax

Here's something you should have done a long time ago, if you haven't already. All you need is a filet of salmon, a few tablespoons of salt and sugar, a fistful of dill, and patience. You will be rewarded for your relatively little work and laziness with a seafood experience like no other: fresh, homemade gravlax.

You may have walked by it in the IKEA cafeteria, or gotten it confused with lox (which is smoked, not just cured), but gravlax's combination of silken fattiness and delicate flavor is a real crowd favorite, as we found out at Mother's Day brunch. I thought I was suffering from temporary insanity when I bought two pounds of salmon for eight people (as it was being served with a bunch of other things), so imagine my surprise when the first pound disappeared halfway through the meal, leaving me to scurry up and slice up the other half. Perhaps it was the irresistibly precious presentation atop a piece of rye toast that did it:

Anyway, this is a Scandinavian classic that has rightly endured, and there's no need to wait for a special occasion to make it. Thanks to Cooking for Engineers for this recipe, which I will paraphrase.

Salmon (filet, skin on)
Kosher salt
Dill, washed and roots trimmed

For every pound of salmon, mix 2 tablespoons salt with 2 tablespoons sugar and a few generous grinds of black pepper. Mix the cure thoroughly.

Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap big enough for your piece of fish and lay the salmon on it skin side down. Cover the salmon evenly with the curing mixture and gently press it into the flesh. Place a goodly bunch of dill atop the curing mixture. If you are making two filets, cover the other with the cure and lay it flesh-side down on top of the dill (tail-to-head so the thickness is roughly even throughout).

Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, then wrap the package again. Place in a dish to collect the juices that will seep out. Leave in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, turning every 12 hours or so.

When you're ready to serve the gravlax, unwrap and rinse thoroughly so all the cure is removed. Pat dry and slice thinly on the bias.

We also made a quick sauce for this, based on the traditional accompaniment. We wanted to use a Meyer lemon, but the damn thing was brown inside when we cut into it, so it was a regular old lemon instead.

Juice of one lemon
1 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp minced (or grated) lemon zest
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Canola oil
Fresh dill, rinsed and chopped

Mix first five ingredients, then slowly drizzle in oil while whisking to make a smooth, glossy sauce. Add the dill and let sit for at least a half hour for flavors to meld. Serve sparingly atop gravlax.


Sara said...

It looks awesome! I love home curing salmon.

Slow-1 said...

Tried before but I remember vodka a s part of the process? Will try again

irisofthewayfarer said...

mmmmmmm, I make graved lox a lot, living by the sea, I have an abundance of salmon and other seafoods. My recipe is from Germany and calls for salt, sugar, pickling spices. I will definitely try your version, less fussyness there :)

conkyfilms said...

Some recipes do call for the addition of some sort of alcohol (vodka, aquavit, etc.) but it's by no means necessary, as we discovered. I think gin would be an interesting thing to try, what with the juniper flavor ...