Gravlax

In My Pantry (book number 10), Alice Waters gives simple recipes for myriad basic pantry items accompanied by lovely illustrations by her daughter, Fanny Singer. The recipes include spice mixes, such as Za’atar, preserved fish and meat, both sweet and savory preserves, and homemade cheeses and crème fraîche along with dozens of others and suggestions for using them in meals. This was another book neither Kate or I had really used, and, once we really started reading, we kicked ourselves for not doing so sooner.

It was hard to decide what to make first, but when we saw fat filets of dark pink sockeye salmon in the case at Pinkham’s, we knew it was time to try our hands at making home-cured gravlax. Kate and I had both thought about trying it over the years, but, strangely, as much cured meat and charcuterie as we’ve made, neither of us had ever cured any fish. As it turned out, this was a very successful first attempt.

Once we got our filet home, we sprinkled it generously with salt, sugar, and crushed peppercorns on both sides, laid several sprigs of dill on the flesh side, and wrapped it tightly in cheesecloth. Weighted down by a saucer in a glass baking dish, our little fishy went into the refrigerator for 48 hours. Except for a quick flip after the first 24 hours, there was very little hands-on prep time.

At the end of two days, we unwrapped the salmon, patted it dry, and found its flesh transformed from the soft flabby texture of raw salmon to firm shiny Gravlax with just the right level of saltiness and a subtle aroma of dill. A definite keeper and a star as part of our Christmas Eve seafood feast. My only complaint was that the skin was difficult to cut through when slicing and unpleasant to eat. After grumbling about it the first few times, I finally had the sense to peel the rest of the skin off of the entire filet. Problem solved.

According to Alice, the cured Gravlax will keep for about a week stored in an airtight container. I’m not sure we’ll be able to test that as it’s almost gone. Yesterday for lunch, I made us Scandinavian inspired open-faced sandwiches with thinly sliced Gravlax on German Linseed Bread (thank you, Aunt Cindy!) with smears of hot German mustard and horseradish sour cream, thin slices of red onion, and sprigs of dill. The sandwiches paired perfectly with shots of ice cold Inshriach Navy Strength Gin.

Up next: The Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook.

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