TRADITIONAL GRAVLAX (Swedish dilled fresh salmon, for eight)
In the 14th century Swedish fishermen discovered that burying fish, wrapped in pine needles, in the cold ground caused fermentation and preserved the fish for as long as a year. Taken from the Swedish words gravid (buried) and lax (salmon), gravlax is a traditional Scandinavian technique for preserving fish. This rather smelly process, a cornerstone of Scandinavian cooking, has since been replaced by curing the salmon in salt and sugar, with a dill coating instead of the pine needles. The cure for gravlax is dry, not wet, and gravlax is neither smoked nor brined, which means that it is closer to raw and less salty than other types of cured salmon.
2 tablespoons white peppercorns
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
2/3 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 pound, center cut, skin-on salmon fillet
1 cup dill sprigs plus 1/3 cup finely chopped dill
¼ cup aquavit (optional)
gravlaxsas (mustard dill sauce) and knackebrod with minced onion to accompany
1. In a small food processor, pulse the peppercorns, fennel seeds and caraway seeds until coarsely ground. Combine with kosher salt and sugar. Stretch plastic wrap over a plate and sprinkle with half of the salt mixture. Place the salmon fillet on top, flesh side up. Cover with remaining salt mixture, 1 cup dill sprigs and ¼ cup aquavit.
2. Fold plastic wrap around salmon and wrap tightly with more plastic wrap. Refrigerate the fish on the plate for 48 to 72 hours (weight it if you’re so inclined), turning the package every 12 hours and using your fingers to redistribute the herb and spice infused brine that accumulates as the salt pulls moisture from the salmon. The gravlax should be firm to the touch at the thickest part when fully cured.
3. Unwrap salmon, discarding the spices, dill and brine. Rinse the fillet under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Finely chop ½ bunch dill, you should end up with about 1/3 cup. Cover a large plate with the chopped dill. Firmly press the flesh side of the gravlax into the dill to coat it evenly.
4. Place gravlax skin side down on a cutting board. With a long, narrow-bladed knife, slice the gravlax against grain, on the diagonal, into thin pieces (Start 4 to 5 inches from the larger end of the fillet and make paper-thin slices toward the tail, with your knife almost parallel to the board.) Serve with mustard dill sauce and knackebrod with minced onion. Refrigerate any remaining gravlax, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 weeks.
from Saveur Magazine, July, 2008