Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Gravlax with Crème Fraîche, Capers and Dill

Salmon Gravlax is a perfect food. The Swedes have celebrated the tradition of making dill-cured salmon for the Christmas season for generations. Traditionally, the meal begins with fish, the most popular being 'Gravadlax': salmon cured in sugar, salt and dill. As far back as the Middle Ages, fishermen cured salmon by burying their specimens in the sand above the high tide level, and then waited for the fish to ferment. An ancient tradition, salting fish preserves it by drying it out and removing the moisture microorganisms need to thrive. Originally this practice insured that the catch would be safe from spoiling when boats were out to sea far from market. Today, a mix of salt, sugar, herbs, and spices serve to cold cure salmon and make a traditional smorgasbord plate.

Delicious prepared in advance as an elegant appetizer, it's also fabulous served with bagels and cream cheese or eggs benedict and creamy hollandaise. With just a few ingredients and very little effort, 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 is 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. Sensational served with a mustard sauce, which is French in origin, home cured gravlax makes a luxurious hors d'oeuvre for any special occasion.

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 in half 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 some capers, sliced red onion, lemon wedges and Mustard Dill Sauce or Crème Fraîche. Heaven!

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