Monday, March 19, 2012

Gravlax (cured salmon)

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Want to bring your friends and family to their knees? Want people to tell you they've never met such a genius in the kitchen? Want to see some serious plate-licking and scrap-picking?

Make gravlax.

Gravlax, or cured salmon, is one of the easiest super-gourmet recipes you will ever make. It has four required ingredients (salmon, salt, sugar, pepper) and several optional ones (fresh herbs, dried herbs, a few drops of vodka or tequila or gin). You'll also need plastic wrap, two baking sheets, and a few cans of tomatoes or beans or whatever's in your pantry. Really high-tech.

I would make this every week if I weren't the only one in my household willing to eat it. Unfortunately, my family is currently on a salmon strike. Crazy people.

Use the freshest salmon you can find. It doesn't need to be sushi grade, but it's not really going to get cooked, so don't use fish that's close to the edge. When it's done, slice it thinly. My favorite way to serve gravlax is with cocktail pumpernickel slices, creme fraiche, a big pile of capers, paper-thin slices of cucumber, and a squeeze of lemon.

By the way, gravlax is excellent party food. Pile the sliced cured salmon in the middle of a platter and mound the accoutrements around the sides. Let people make their own little open-faced sandwiches. Low hassle, extra elegant. If there's no party and it's just you, scale down the amount of the salt mixture and use two smaller skin-on salmon filets rather than a whole fish.

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Gravlax (cured salmon)
The combination of salt, sugar and pepper cures raw salmon and turns it into a true delicacy. Be sure to start this 3-5 days ahead - it takes time for the cure to penetrate the fish.
  • 1 whole raw salmon, skin on, head off, fileted
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup ground or cracked black pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh dill (optional - substitute 3 Tbsp dried dill or another herb of your choice)
  • 2 Tbsp vodka, tequila or gin (optional)
Lay several large pieces of plastic wrap on your counter, overlapping them to form one very big square. Lay one filet of salmon in the middle of the plastic wrap, skin side down.In a small bowl, mix together the salt, sugar and pepper. Pour the salt mixture over the salmon, mounding it thickly on the flesh of the fish and making sure the whole surface is covered. Lay the dill over the salt mixture if you're using it, then place the other fish filet on top, skin side up. Basically, you're sandwiching the salt mixture between the two pieces of salmon.Now bring the plastic wrap up around the salmon, wrapping it tightly. If you misjudged the first time and didn't end up with enough plastic wrap to go all the way around, take some more. Let me be clear here: You can't really wrap the salmon too much or too tightly at this point. Get it nice and snug in its plastic wrap house.Place the wrapped salmon on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan that will fit in your refrigerator. Put a plate or a smaller sheet pan on top of the salmon and weight it down with a few big cans of something. Place the whole thing in the refrigerator and let time work its magic. Turn the fish over once or twice a day to redistribute the juices that will start to flow. This is why the salmon has to be well wrapped - you want to keep that liquid in with the salmon, not leaking out onto the pan.After four or five days, the salmon should be done. Unwrap it in the sink, scrape off the dill and most of the salt mixture, slice it thinly, and serve with thinly sliced toast and any combination of the following: creme fraiche, capers, chopped onions, lemon wedges.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 20+ servings


Anonymous said...

One of my favorite foods! Salmon strike in your house? Dreadful. I'm just in N. Hollywood...I'm on way, just say when :)

Geez Louise said...

salmon strike? what the heck? gorgeous color on the salmon - perfect party food.

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