I am ridiculously impressed with myself – I made gravlax! Why this should seem to be such an accomplishment, I have no idea – dumping a lot of salt and seasonings on a nice piece of salmon and turning it twice a day isn’t really a lot of work. But I am just really, really pleased with the results.
I discovered I liked gravlax a few years ago, after a family visit to Restaurant Österreich in Leavenworth. Then I realized that I liked lox quite a lot, after a number of bagel breakfasts with J’s family. Lately, I snap up cured salmon wherever I see it – which isn’t very often, in this neck of the woods. In the Pacific Northwest, salmon seems to come fresh, smoked or nothing – salt-cured fish just isn’t happening. So when I saw a very reassuringly simple and well-illustrated article on making gravlax in a recent issue of Saveur, I decided my time had come. There was fresh dill at the farmer’s market, and our local grocery has had beautiful sides of sockeye in the fish case for $7.99 a pound this week, so I got the biggest manageable piece I could and set to work.
According to the article, the seasonings are really flexible. Dill, fennel and caraway give a nice traditional flavor, but you could do almost anything. The important thing is the salt, and maybe a bit of alcohol to give extra firmness and flavor – the recipe used aquavit, I used vodka.
The result? The fish was salty, but had a nice dill/caraway flavor and a lovely translucence. We ate our first meal from it with rye Wasa crackers, cream cheese and a bit of Dijon mustard, along with a glass of Willow Crest Rocking L rosé, which was perfect with the gravlax.
adapted from the July 2008 issue of Saveur (original recipe here)
- One fillet of sockeye salmon, about 1.5 pounds
- 1 cup roughly chopped fresh dill
- 2 tsp caraway seeds
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 1/2 Tbsp ground white pepper
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- a splash of vodka
Coarsely grind the fennel and caraway, and mix with the salt, sugar and white pepper. Spread out a sheet of plastic wrap and sprinkle half of the salt mixture over it, then lay the fish (skin side down) on top. Sprinkle the rest of the salt mixture over the fish, and pour over the vodka. Wrap tightly with more plastic wrap and put in a ziploc bag, then put in the fridge.
Turn the fish every 12 hours, massaging the salt and liquid around to make sure all surfaces are in contact with the brine. After 48-72 hours, the fish should be firm and cured all the way through. Unwrap, rinse thoroughly, and press the fish into more fresh chopped dill. Slice very thinly and eat. Keeps for two weeks (we have yet to verify this).