A tasty, sugar-and-salt cured salmon appetizer perfect for parties.
This is similar to lox, the cured salmon you might find on a bagel—and you can certainly use lox to make these up. We prefer the Swedish version, gravlax, because it’s a little sweeter. (It’s not actually smoked, but that’s how many people often refer to it.)
The name literally means “grave salmon,” which, we’re told, dates from medieval times, when North Sea fishermen would cure their fish in salt and bury them in “graves” above the high-tide line.
But don’t worry! While the name gives this recipe some Halloween flair, it’s much tastier and less macabre a dish than it was in the Middle Ages. Gravlax now means fish cured in salt, sugar and whatever else your wicked imagination can come up with.
Vodka or brandy
are often added, as are herbs like dill, spices like pepper. Gravlax is so easy to make that you really must try. Once you’ve got your basic cured fish, there’s no end to the marvelousness.
I often buy whole fish direct from the fishermen at the docks. I’ll freeze one fillet for company and cut two generous servings for our dinner that night from the other fillet. The rest becomes gravlax and this is how it’s done.
Time to Prepare: Actual prep is about 30 minutes, but give it 48 hours to cure.
fillets of fresh salmon (preferably sockeye or king, also called chinook or spring salmon)
vodka or brandy
optional flavorings like peppercorn, orange or lemon zest, chile peppers
In a small bowl, mix together equal portions of coarse salt and brown sugar. You want lots: you want to cover the fish completely. If you have two serving-size portions of fish, use a big handful of each of the salt and sugar, about 1/2 cup each.
Cut the fresh fish into two roughly equal pieces. Place one in a shallow container that just fits the size of the fish pieces and has a tight-fitting lid. If you can’t find such a thing, open a zip-lock bag that is just big enough to hold the fish and place the first piece inside, flesh up.
If you’re using pepper or chiles, scatter them around the container/bag now–not on top of the fish or they will discolor it. (Herbs or zest can be put right on the flesh.)
Pour the sugar and salt over the flesh side of the fish and sandwich it with the second piece of fish, flesh side against the sugar/salt mix. Pour in any alcohol you want to use. Put on the lid or zip up the bag. Put it in the fridge.
After a few hours, turn it over. The container will be full of brine, as the salt has begun to draw moisture from the fish. You want to bathe both pieces of fish continually in this brine. Continue to turn it every time you think of it for 48 hours. Don’t leave it longer than that or you’ll have very salty, rubbery fish!
Remove the fish from the brine and discard the brine, spices and zest. Rinse the fish under cold running water to remove all of the brine and then taste a tiny slice. If it is too salty for your taste, return it to the cleaned container and soak it in cold water for 20-30 minutes to draw salt back out.
And you’re done! Now comes the fun part.
Gravlax may be served just as you would any ‘smoked salmon’, but is at its sweet, nutty best when contrasted with dark breads like pumpernickel, fresh vegetables like cucumber and sweet mustards or fresh, soft cheeses. To slice it professionally, put it in the freezer until it is just barely frozen. Slice very thinly, starting near the tail end and slicing toward the tail in deeply angled cuts. A very thin, sharp knife is helpful here.
To make the elegant hors d’oeuvre in the photo here, roll the slices and place them on potato pancakes (or any bread or crackers that you like). Top with a small spoonful of creme fraiche and decorate with chopped chive.
2 cups grated potato (don’t use new potatoes for this)
1 1/2 tablespoons flour (or as needed)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons grated onion
oil for frying
Place the grated potato in a strainer to drain, salting it lightly. Then wrap it in a tea towel and wring as much of the remaining moisture from it as possible.
Put the potato in a bowl and beat it with the 3 eggs, salt and grated onion. Stir in the flour until the mixture is just stiff enough to shape into a thin patty about 2 inches in diameter. Fry these patties in a heavy-bottomed skillet in hot oil until lightly browned.
Place the finished patties on a wire rack to cool and then drain them on absorbent paper for a few minutes. Top with gravlax and creme fraiche, as described above, and serve at room temperature.