When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And when life gives you salmon, trust me, make gravlax!
My mother makes gravlax occasionally but this was my first attempt upon receiving the bounty of a 12 kg salmon last weekend. And I was surprised at how easy it was…and how delicious…
Gravlax is a cured salmon dish that originated in medieval Scandinavia as a way to preserve fish. Weighting the salmon fillets down while curing compacts the flesh (getting rid of excess fluid) and results in a silky texture and intense flavour. Some recipes don’t use any additional liquid in the curing process but as you can see from the recipe below, I added vodka and sambucca with delicious results.
Gravlax (adapted from a Bon Appetit March 2004 recipe)
Take 500 grams of very fresh salmon (mine was swimming in the river two days prior but you can get fresh salmon from your fishmonger – just make sure that they are fillets with the skin on).
Heat 2 tsp of mixed (black, red & white) pepper corns in a small skillet over medium-high heat until seeds are jumping slightly (about 5 minutes) and remove from heat. Crush in a mortar (if you don’t have a mortar & pestle, you just can throw them into a tea towel, cover and pound away with a mallet or hammer). Transfer the crushed peppercorns to a small bowl, add 2 tbs of coarse sea salt and 2 tsp of brown sugar, and mix together.
Chop up about 1 cup of fresh dill.
Sprinkle about 1/3 of the dill in the bottom of a dish that will hold the salmon fillets in a single layer. Rub 1/3 of the spice mixture into the skin side of the salmon and place on top of the dill, skin side down. Rub the remaining spice mixture into the top of the salmon, drizzle 1/2 cup of vodka (I added a few splashes of Sambucca as I like a slight anise flavour) over and then drape the remaining dill over the top.
Cover with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto the fish. Place a plate or other pan on top as long as you can weight all the fillets down (I used a bowl filled with water but you can use cans or bags of beans – anything that will add weight during the process).
Refrigerate for 3 – 4 days (turning the salmon in the mixture once a day). Then remove from the marinade and enjoy.
Last night, I draped thinly sliced gravlax over toasted rye squares covered with a base of warmed Brie for a yummy light dinner; but it would also be amazing on bagels & cream cheese for a Sunday brunch, or on top of small potato pancakes with a dollop of creme freche as an appetizer… you get the picture. I have to say…I may never go back to smoked salmon again…