by Kate Heyhoe
Gravlax recipes vary slightly in the salt and sugar proportions, but I prefer this mix and method, similar to one found in James Peterson's Fish and Shellfish Cookbook (an excellent gift choice for dedicated foodies).
For this recipe, you need:
Two whole salmon fillets with skin, about 5 pounds total
3/4 cup coarse salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 large bunch fresh herbs—preferably dill, basil, or cilantro (at least 2 to 3 cups when chopped)
1) Run your fingers down the fillets and feel for small, rigid bones. Using needlenose pliers or tweezers, pull these pin bones from the salmon.
2) Mix together the salt and sugar in a small bowl and set aside. Coarsely chop the selected herb(s) and set aside.
3) Stretch out a length of foil 6 inches longer than the fillets. Distribute one-fourth of the salt-sugar mixture in an area just the size of the fillet. Place one fillet skin-side down on the mixture. Sprinkle two-thirds of the remaining mixture evenly on top of the fillet, along with the chopped herbs.
4) Place the second fillet flesh side down on top of the herbs and curing mixture. Sprinkle the remaining curing mixture on the skin side of the second fillet.
5) Seal the fillets tightly in foil and place on a large pan. Set another pan on top of the fillets. Add something heavy to weight them down—a Le Creuset Dutch oven or other large pot filled with water is perfect, or wrap some bricks in foil, and place them on the top pan.
6) Refrigerate for 2 to 3 days, turning the fish twice a day. The salmon will release juices as it cures, so be careful lifting the pan out of the fridge. (You can pour off any juices that accumulate, but I don't and it doesn't seem to matter.) The salmon will keep up to a week or more refrigerated (you can lose the weights after the curing process is done.)
Some recipes say to rinse and dry the fillets before slicing. I never do that. It tastes fine as it is, and I enjoy seeing and nibbling on the bits of chopped herbs. But taste it and do whatever you prefer.
Servings: 5 pounds makes 20 hefty first course servings. If this is too much, you can make half the recipe. Use a single whole salmon fillet and cut in half across the middle, laying one half over the other. Cut the ingredients in half, but don't cut the curing time in half—you'll still need at least 48 hours to cure it.
Variations: I never make gravlax the same way twice. Sometimes I add some white or black pepper, or a splash of vodka, or I may mix cilantro and basil, or dill and basil. I've even mixed brown sugar and white sugar together, for a more caramelized taste. But don't go too crazy—you want the delicate salmon flavor to shine through, not be overwhelmed.
Introduction to Salmon
(& Last Minute Gift Suggestions)
Weekend Salmon Gravlax
...and Last Minute Gift Suggestions
Copyright © 1998, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created 1998 and modified November 2006.
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