You say Christmas, and I say Gravlax. The holiday season is not complete without executing a recipe for home-cured salmon gravlax. Don’t be daunted. This is an entertainer’s dream. The salmon is easily prepared in advance and stowed in the refrigerator to cure for 2 days. All you need to do is unwrap and remove the spice cure, slice and serve. The results are the essence of Nordic cuisine: minimal and elegant. Fennel, dill and pepper fleck the meltingly soft salmon which tastes of the sea. How can you argue with that?
Gravlax (gravlaks in Danish and Norwegian or gravad lax in Swedish) literally means salmon in a grave or hole. During the middle ages fisherman would salt salmon and let it ferment by burying it in a hole above high-tide line. Nowadays it’s not necessary to bury salmon in sand, but, rather in salt and sugar and banish it to the refrigerator. The salmon will cure over several days, during which the salt and sugar will turn into liquid, creating a brine.
Recipe adapted from the TasteFood archives, because it’s that time of year again.
Serves a party.
Salt and sugar are necessary ingredients for curing, however fresh or dried herbs, peppercorns, citrus or spirits are frequently added to the brine for additional flavor. This recipe adds dill, fennel, peppercorns and akavit for flavor and spice. Choose a fish which is very fresh with a firm consistency. I use an Atlantic fish, such as Loch Duart Salmon.
One side of salmon, about 3 pounds (1.5 kg) with skin, pin bones removed
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
10 ounces (350 g.) sea salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup fresh dill sprigs, chopped
1 cup fennel fronds, finely chopped
1/4 cup Akavit or vodka
Lightly toast peppercorns and fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium high heat until aromatic, 1 minute. Transfer to a mortar and finely ground to a powder. Mix pepper, fennel, salt, and sugars together in a medium bowl. Rub fish all over with salt. Line a long baking pan or dish with plastic wrap. Place half the dill sprigs and half the fennel fronds over the plastic wrap. Arrange salmon, skin-side down on the herbs. Sprinkle Akavit over salmon. Top with remaining dill and fennel. Cover with additional plastic wrap, sealing the fish. Place a heavy pan or tray on fish. Weigh down pan with cans or bottles. Refrigerate for 2-3 days.
To serve, remove fish from refrigerator. Remove plastic wrap. Pour off collected juices and wipe off excess brine and dill. Slice diagonally from one corner of the salmon towards the center of the fillet.
Fold a slice of gravlax on toasted brioche bread. Squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon juice and smear a spoonful of Honey Dill Mustard on the fish. Garnish with a dill sprig.
Honey Dill Mustard
1/4 cup honey mustard
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup chopped dill sprigs
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Whisk mustard and vinegar together in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in oil to emulsify. Stir in dill, pepper and salt.
and these festive dishes from the food blogs:
Smoked Herring and Ryebread Canapes from Nami Nami
Avocado and Radish Canapes with Smoked Salt from Chocolate and Zucchini
Pan-Fried Brie with Persimmon Cheese Canapes from Cookin’ Canuck