If you have a stockpile of Alaskan sockeye salmon, stop hoarding it, and turn it into a culinary delight with this Scandinavian recipe for gravlax!
What’s that, you say? No, not lox, as in lox and cream cheese, but similar. Gravlax is a traditional Scandinavian way to cure salmon. The name comes from the real traditional way to prepare it: burying salmon (lax) in a salty grave (grav). But we needn’t bury fish in the yard, let’s just stick to some pans and plastic wrap this time around.
First, do yourself a favor and start with salmon that you know has been taken well care of and frozen as fresh as possible. There is very little processing done, so the final product is only going to be as good as the quality of fish you start with. Using frozen fish also assures that any parasites within the fish have been killed.
You’ll need: a filet or two of fresh-frozen salmon, skin-on and fully thawed in the fridge (this dish is salty and very thinly sliced so a little goes a long way), lots of dill, some salt, pepper and sugar, plastic wrap and a shallow dish that the filet will fit in, plus one more to place on top.
Additional spices are sometimes used, such as cloves or juniper berries, but we wanted to really taste the salmon, so just went with the plain, dill version.
First, place the fish in a shallow pan (after you’ve completely thawed it in the fridge), skin side down. Mix 5-6 Tbsp salt, 1-2 Tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp pepper and sprinkle over the fish. Pack the dill on top, completely covering the salmon until you can only see dill and no fish. Then, cover in plastic wrap and place another flat-bottomed pan on top of the plastic, adding a few small items to slightly weigh down the pan, thereby pressing the salmon as it cures. (Operative word here is pressing, not squishing.)
Here is where the recipe takes on a life of its own, as traditional recipes tend to do. Some versions say cure a week, others, no more than two or three days. Some don’t mention weighting the salmon, most do..this is what we tried:
Leave in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours, but less than 72. It may become too salty after that point. After the allotted time, unwrap the fish and gently rinse off coating and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Slice the gravlax as thinly as you can at a 45-degree angle with a very sharp knife. After only two or three days of curing, you should notice the consistency of the fish has already changed from sashimi-like to firmer gravlax!
Serve slices with cream cheese on rye bread or crackers, garnishing with red onion or capers if you’d like.~