Birthday Gravlax

Luca Brasi may sleep with the fishes, but at Grin and Cook It, we eat the fishes.  If you have visited here before, you know how much I love salmon.  In my ever so humble (but obviously correct) opinion, one of the best things you can do with salmon is to cure it, then put it on some pumpernickel bread (or a bagel if you prefer) with some cream cheese, thin sliced red onion, and a few capers.  This gravlax recipe is easy to do, and makes a super luxurious dish that is sure to impress.  If you are not the bagel and cream cheese type, I’m sure we can find a few other applications for this fish that are equally appealing.

Why is this recipe called Birthday Gravlax?  Like a lot of people, I have a party every year on my birthday.  We have lots of friends over and enjoy some good food and drink.  The last few years, I have made a big batch of gravlax as a birthday gift to myself…and because I am not completely selfish, I also share some of it with my guests.  This year’s batch came out especially well.  The salmon flavor came through nicely with hints of salt, dill, and lemon.

The seasoning mixture goes between the filets. A little on the outside is a good thing too.

You don’t need to buy the most expensive salmon you can find for this.  It is really good with some nice wild caught Alaskan fish of course, but it comes out just fine with the Atlantic salmon you can get on sale at most super markets.  However, I would recommend getting the fish as fresh as you can…as long as they don’t deliver it wrapped in a bullet proof vest.  Try to get two filets of roughly equal size, make sure they have the skin on them, and remove all the bones.  If you need to, lay the fish out and feel along the top of the filet.  If you feel a bone, use tweezers, or even pliers if necessary, to pull them out.  If you can’t get two equal size filets, then you can trim the pieces so they match up roughly equal when put flesh to flesh (see the picture above).  I like to give the fish a quick rinse in cold water then pat them dry with a paper towel before I begin.

Use a brick or maybe a large phone book to keep weight on the fish for about 3 days.

I use a combination of sea salt and smoked salt in this recipe to give a hint of smoky flavor.  If you can’t find smoked salt, don’t worry it will still come out great if you use plain salt.  When you chop the dill, leave the stems in there and roughly chop the whole thing.  Give that fish a good splash of gin and put everything together.  Wrap it up tight and stash in the fridge.  I like to place a sheet pan on top with a brick (wrapped in foil to make it pretty….or to keep any dirt from the brick contained, you decide your own reasons).  Make sure the sheet pan does not rest on the pan the fish is in, you want the weight on the fish.  When it is done, you can simply wipe off the fish, or give it a quick rinse (I choose the rinse option).  Don’t worry, you won’t rinse all the dill, or any of the flavor, away.

Slice the fish starting at the tail end of the filet. Cut at an angle and slice it as thin as you can get.

Birthday Gravlax

  • 3 ¼ pound salmon (2 filets)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup course sea salt
  • ¼ cup smoked salt
  • Zest 1 lemon
  • Fresh dill rough chopped
  • Black pepper
  • Splash gin

Rinse filets and lay them out on a sheet of plastic wrap. Splash some gin all over the fish and add a few grinds of black pepper. Combine the sugar, salt, and lemon zest in a bowl. Lay the dill over the filets then spread the sugar/salt mixture evenly over the top. Lay one filet on top of the other (flesh sides facing each other, skin sides out) and wrap in the plastic. Leave the ends open so moisture can get out. Place in a dish deep enough to catch any liquids and put a heavy weight on top. Put in the fridge for about three days. Flip them over every 12 hours and replace the weight on top each time. Remove from the plastic and rinse the salt/sugar off. Slice thin and serve.  This should be fine kept in the fridge for a few days, and will keep well in the freezer for longer storage.

Not in the mood for the pumpernickel and cream cheese?  Here are a couple other ideas to try:

  1. Add a little gravlax on top of a bed of greens (perhaps arugula), add some other veggies as you like.  Then top with a drizzle of mustard vinaigrette.
  2. Dice some onions, fry them in butter until soft.  Whisk a few eggs with a splash of milk.  Add a little gravlax to the pan with the onions, then pour the egg mixture over the top.  Cook as you would scrambled eggs.  I like this one almost as much as the pumpernickel and cream cheese option.
  3. Add a heap of gravlax to some ice cream with a little hot fudge and whipped cream.  Don’t forget the cherry on top!

Footnotes for today’s post:

  1. Just in case you didn’t understand the Luca Brasi reference at the beginning of this post, or the bullet proof vest bit…get out from under that rock, make yourself an offer you can’t refuse, and go watch a classic movie.  And if you still don’t get it, then Google is your next best bet.
  2. I hope you did not actually add any gravlax to your ice cream.  That would ruin some perfectly good gravlax!  For crying out loud, can’t you people tell a joke when you read one???

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