Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Hmm - explaining this dish is a little difficult. Smoked salmon is on one end of the spectrum and sushi is another - Gravlaks, I guess is somewhere in between. It isn't exactly salt cured (like bacalao), even though you use lots of salt.

Basically, you cure the salmon in a mixture of salt & sugar with some fresh cracked pepper as well. You also put handfuls of fresh dill in between the layers of fish. This combination of salt, sweet and dill cures the salmon in 2-3 days. Once the fish is ready - you just keep checking it daily - rinse off the brine and keep tightly wrapped in parchment and plastic wrap for up to a week. Serve it thinly sliced on rye bread with a sweet mustard sauce.

This is my first attempt at Gravlaks, so I enlisted the help of my dad because; a) he always scores the nicest piece of fish if he goes to the store; b) he and my mom have actually made Gravlaks several times and; c) he's Norwegian.

Two salmon fillets, skin-on, thick center cut, about 1 pound each
2 cups sugar
2 cups salt
2 tablespoons fresh cracked pepper
2 handfuls fresh dill (stems included)

Trim the thin, brown edge off the salmon to create two similar sized pieces. Remove the pin bones using needle-nose pliers. Mix the salt & sugar together. Lay one piece of fish in a shallow glass pan, skin side down. Rub with 1 tablespoon of pepper and about 1/2 cup of the salt & sugar mix. Lay the dill on top of the fish. Rub the other piece of fish with 1 tablespoon of pepper and 1/4 cup of the salt & sugar mix. The salt will quickly start to dissolve. Carefully lay the second piece of salmon skin side down on top of the skin side up piece of salmon already in the pan.

Cover the salmon sandwich with the remaining salt & sugar mixture. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap. The salt will quickly begin pulling moisture out of the fish, so set the pan atop of smalled rimmed baking sheet, plate or pan. Cover with a small board and some weight (I used a couple of small, 5# dumbbells I rarely use). Refrigerate for 3 to 4 days, flipping over halfway through.
Once the fish is done...well I am not sure what to do yet. The Gravlaks has begun curing in my fridge as I type this, I'll report back in a couple of days.

Gravlaks Update:
Success! The Gravlaks turned out great. I left it in the salt, weighted down, for about 36 hours - flipping it over every 12 hours or so. It took a good 24 hours before I really started to feel a difference in the firmness of the meat. It became a little softer, but the real indicator was that the sides of the fish really changed in texture - almost firmer. Then, I rinsed the heck out of it, wrapped it and parchment and plastic wrap and it was ready to go.

To serve:

The fish had plenty of dill flavor, so I did not add any additional dill. Thinly slice the gravlaks and serve atop a thinly sliced piece of dark rye bread. Top with sweet mustard sauce and a sprig of dill.

Sweet Mustard Sauce

6 tablespoons grainy mustard (I like Beaver brand)
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar

Mix ingredients together and slowly whisk in 1/2 to 1 cup of vegetable oil to form a thick emulsion.

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