Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cured, Not Smoked

Last week I had to urge to make something I have never made before. I have seen this made on TV a few times, and decided to try it for myself. I made Gravlax ( <-- red = a link) which is a dill, salt and sugar cured salmon. It was wonderful; much better than any I have purchased in the markets. For a comparison (and the differences) of Lox, Nova, and Gravlax check the Wikipedia entry on Lox. A basic Gravlax recipe is at the end of this post. This must be prepared a day or two ahead, as it requires time to cure. Different recipes indicate different curing times, but we let it cure for two days which worked fine in my opinion.
My Serving Suggestions:
The Gravlax is sliced very thin. The "traditional" way to serve Gravlax is with a mustard sauce, and most recipes I found include a mustard sauce recipe. I deviated from this tradition and served my Gravlax two ways (on different days).
  • For an appetizer, I served the Gravlax with very thinly sliced black bread (available in the supermarket), cream cheese, minced red onion, and fresh dill.
  • For either an appetizer or an entry, you can take a page from Wolfgang Puck, and make a salmon pizza. I used fresh store bought pizza dough (from the bakery section, not frozen), formed my pizza, brushed with olive oil, baked it until golden. I then topped it with creme fraiche, gravlax, minced or sliced red onions and fresh dill. (Note: This is not reheated, but served at room temperature, or chilled). 
Gravlax: (from The Food Network, courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson)
I have included the Mustard Sauce recipe. 
Note: I used coho salmon, not the average farm raised salmon (color enhanced through feed) usually found in the supermarkets. I suggest you use the best fresh salmon you can find.


  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cracked white peppercorns
  • 2 to 3 pounds fresh salmon filets (preferably center piece, skin on)
  • 3 bunches fresh dill


  • Mustard sauce


Mix salt, sugar and white peppercorns. Take a handful and rub it on both sides of the salmon. Place the salmon in a dish and sprinkle the rest of the mix on top.
Cover the salmon with dill and let it stand for six hours at room temperature.
Put in the refrigerator for 24 to 30 hours, depending on how thick the salmon is.
To serve: (see my earlier serving suggestions; what follows is from the on-line recipe. Also, while not mentioned in this recipe, other recipes suggested that the salt, sugar, and dill used in the curing be washed off or wiped off of the salmon before slicing, and fresh dill sprinkled over the salmon.)
Slice the salmon off the skin in thin slices, and place them on a platter. Cut the skin in pieces, approximately 1/2-inch wide, and blacken the skins in a very hot cast iron skillet. (Note: I did not blacken the skins, but go for it if you wish)
Decorate the platter with lemon, dill and skin.
  • 1 tablespoon sweet mustard
  • 1 teaspoon French mustard
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3/4 cup salad oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill
Mix the mustards, sugar and vinegar and season with pinches of salt and pepper. Mix in the oil while you pour it in a steady stream. When the sauce has a mayonnaise-like consistency, stir in the chopped dill.

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