Thursday, December 23, 2010

Home Cured Salmon Gravlax for Christmas

Salmon Gravlax is a perfect food, especially for salmon lovers. It can be made well in advance and will definitely impress your guests with it's fabulous colour and wonderfully fresh flavour — "And you made it yourself?" A little Mustard Dill Sauce on the side and you have an elegant first course. A slice or two on a slice of baguette with some chive cream cheese and a delicious appetizer is complete. And then there's Christmas morning and Eggs Benedict with Gravlax (or smoked salmon) and a generous dollop of hollandaise! Yummy.

The Swedes have celebrated the tradition of making Gravlax for the Christmas season for generations — on Christmas Eve in particular — a feast they call Julbord. Traditionally, the meal begins with fish; the most popular being Gravlax — salmon cured in sugar, salt and dill. Curing with salt is one of the oldest means of food preservation, and today, the time-honoured practice of curing foods with salt and spices has given us many delicacies we see in gourmet shops around the world. With just a few ingredients and very little work, Gravlax can be made easily at home, and at a fraction of the cost of what it sells for in the shops! Simply remove the large bones from a 3 to 4 pound salmon fillet. Prepare the cure by combining the salt and sugar, and apply it evenly on the fillet. Add dill or any other herb or spice desired, wrap the fillet, place it under a weight, and refrigerate.

There are about 20 minutes of work involved in preparing gravlax, then a waiting period of 24 hours. After removing the fillet from the refrigerator, wipe the salt cure from the salmon, and using a long thin knife, slice paper-thin slices from the fillet. Gravlax is a perfect hors d'oeuvre for the holidays and will impress your guests beyond belief! We make it every year and have made it our new family Christmas tradition — our own Canadian Julbord.

Salmon Gravlax
Makes 20-30 appetizer portions

1 3-4 lb salmon filet, deboned with skin on
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 bunch fresh dill

On a work surface, cut the salmon into 2 filets and place them skin side down. Mix the salt and sugar together and spread half of the cure mix over the surface of one filet. Lay the dill on top, then spread the rest of the cure mix over the dill and lay the second side of salmon, skin side up, over the first — thick part of one filet over the thin part of the other — so together they make a flat 'sandwich'. 

Place the salmon in a rimmed glass dish large enough to hold the fish, and cover firmly with cling film. Put a dish on top and weigh it down with some heavy cans or weights. Refrigerate for 24-36 hours, during which time, juices will accumulate in the bottom of the dish and the salmon with cure.

Take the salmon from the wrapping, remove the dill and scrape off any excess mix. With a long sharp knife, carefully slice thin slivers of the pink salmon on the bias, and serve with Mustard Dill Sauce.

Mustard Dill Sauce
Makes 1 cup

3 tbsp prepared mustard
2 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
Fresh dill

Shortly before serving the salmon, dissolve prepared mustard and sugar in wine vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, whisking constantly to create a creamy emulsion. Finally, stir in a generous amount of finely chopped fresh dill. Serve in a decorative bowl along side the Gravlax.