Not only are we blessed with beauty and abundance here on the Oregon coast, but lately we've been blessed with fresh salmon too. It's the time of year the fish leave the ocean and head upriver to spawn so naturally Big Guy's been doing his best to bring as many home as he's allowed. Of course it's my lot in life to find different ways to serve it. We've had our salmon grilled, stewed, roasted, sauteed and smoked but last night's gravlax may be the new favorite.
Fair warning though - don't expect instant gratification because it does take advanced planning. Gravlax is salmon that is dry cured in a combination of sugar, salt and fresh dill although what you see is an Ina Garten recipe that also includes crushed peppercorns and fennel seeds. Naturally I did my share of research and came across several different methods, some of which are described in this NY Times Article, but you can quote me when I say it's doubtful there's a wrong way to make it.
A little time, some TLC and careful slicing with a very sharp knife and you'll be blessed as we were with mild flavored, almost transparent, rich and buttery salmon. Hush from all you squeamish people ... don't you dare say "it's raw". It isn't. It's cured so it's cooked. So there.
Served on thin slices of pumpernickle bread along with a mustard dill sauce, or better yet on top of light as air Irish Potato Cakes aka Boxty topped with sour cream, and a mix of finely chopped onion, chives and fresh dill, we thought we'd darn near died and gone to heaven. It's a perfect munchie night feast made finer with the addition of some lemon flavored vodka but you didn't hear that from me. A glass of lovely crisp Sauvignon Blanc would suffice just as well.
If I were you, I'd be putting this onto my "to do" list for holiday menus. It will feed a crowd quite nicely on your appetizer buffet and requires a bare minimum of effort. Just remember to use the freshest fish possible and I guarantee it'll make your socks go up and down. Honest!
Gravlax – Dry Cured Salmon from JBug’s Kitchen Antics adapted from Ina Garten via foodnetwork.com
3 to 4 pound salmon fillet
1 large bunch of dill plus additional chopped
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons crushed mixed peppercorns
1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds
Wash and dry salmon. Carefully feel for and remove all pin bones. Cut salmon fillet in half crosswise and place on board skin side down. Arrange dill on top of salmon fillets. In a small bowl mix together sugar, salt, peppercorns and fennel seeds. Spread mixture evenly on top of salmon fillets. Top one salmon fillet with the other, dill and curing mixture sandwiched in between with skin side up. Place in fillet in a deep glass dish and cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Place a smaller pan on top of salmon and weight with something heavy. I used the lid of a large cast iron Dutch oven. Refrigerate for 24 hours – turning salmon over every 12 hours and basting it with the accumulated liquid.
To serve, remove dill and rinse off salmon. Dry well with paper towels. Remove skin from salmon and garnish with chopped dill. Using a very sharp knife, slice salmon into long paper thin slices. Serve with mustard sauce, chopped onion, on pumpernickel or potato cakes.
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 -1/2 teaspoons ground dry mustard
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/3 cup oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
In a small narrow bowl, whisk together or blend using an immersion blender the mustards, sugar and vinegar until well mixed. Slowly drizzle in the oil and blend until emulsified and thick. Fold in chopped fresh dill.