Make, Jane, make!: Salmon Gravlax


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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Salmon Gravlax

Around here, it's the time of year when wild Pacific salmon arrives at our local markets and can be bought for reasonable prices. So when my hubby and I spied those deep pinky-red packages of fish for sale last week we had to buy some. I asked him if he wanted them cedar planked in the bar-be and his answer was instantaneous: "No, that's a waste... cure it."

I love smoked salmon and I love cured salmon. We don't own a smoker and until recently I had never considered curing salmon at home until I saw the method/recipe featured in an issue of the Longo's magazine. I always assumed that it would be a long process that wouldn't be justified by the amount of time that would be involved. But after seeing the Longo's gravlax recipe side by side with recipes that called for pre-bought sauces as their main ingredients, I figured it couldn't be that hard.

I first tried this recipe during the Christmas season and was pleasantly surprised at how easy and reliably delicious the results were. We served our homemade gravlax twice during the holiday season to family and guests who were surprised that it could be made so handily at home.

The bulk of the time spent in making the gravlax is in the fridge curing time (not too labour-intensive, since you just let it sit in the fridge) and the slicing. I let my gravlax cure in the fridge for almost 2 days since I find that the flesh doesn't always firm up and lose all its translucency when only left for 24 hours as the recipe suggests.

As you can see, I don't use centre-cut portions of fish. I just buy a whole side (or two!).
I don't have as much dill in this batch as I would have liked to have. The fresh dill is what really gives this fresh homemade version its extra oomph. I like to try to cram in as much dill as possible between my sandwiched pieces of fish, just ran out this time.

When the salmon has been well cured, the flesh separates from the skin fairly easily.
I find the slicing to be the most labour intensive of all the steps. I'm blessed with a filleting knife which makes the slicing go very smoothly. However, I've done it before with a carving knife and a chef's knife - both of which have done the job just as well. And although gravlax is usually sold sliced paper thin, I find that when the salmon is cured thoroughly, the flesh is so tender that it doesn't need to be sliced so thin... in fact, it's nice to get a little more fish in every bite!

I like to split my gravlax batches into smaller portions and I just wrap them up in a little parchment paper. This allows us to enjoy some immediately and freeze the rest. The frozen portions can then be thawed overnight in the fridge when you want to use them. The frozen fish loses some of its fresh dill taste but is still delish nonetheless.

Gravlax and any kind of creamy spread on a cracker or toasted baguette/bagel are just the easiest treat. I love that my kids love salmon in all its forms, making gravlax and cream cheese on toast a super easy, filling and nutritious breakfast or midday snack. This time around, I ended up with 500 grams of wild Pacific salmon gravlax and only spent about $20 for the fish. It's even cheaper if you just use the plain-old, everyday, farmed Atlantic salmon. Which makes this a money-saving project as well. No wonder I've been buying whole sides of salmon every time they go on special :)


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