Musings on Wine

Salmon Gravlax

A northern European delicacy, this delicious salmon preparation is something you can do easily, every time you have beautiful fresh fish. Literally translated as 'salmon in its grave', this savoury delicacy has been produced for centuries when fisherman lightly salted and then buried sides of fish in the sand above the tide line. The resulting curing and light fermentation that took place converted the fresh fish into a dried, firm and flavourful appetizer that would keep much longer than the fresh fish could.

Everytime I come across a beautiful fresh side of in-season, wild Coho, Sockeye or Atlantic salmon, I buy it. It is vitally important that the fish be ultra-fresh. The very first time I made gravlax, it was a success and continues to be easy and delicious each and every time I prepare it. Instructions are so simple: take a side of salmon on the skin, with all pin and other bones removed. Place it in a shallow pan or tray, cover it in a light coating of Kosher or coarse salt and white sugar and mix in any spices or seasonings that you like with salmon. I typically use chopped dill, lemon peel, a little lemon juice, crushed juniper berry, crushed back peppercorns and sometimes a little caraway seed, although this can be strong. It's also nice to grate a little red beet on top of the salmon giving it a gorgeous red stain after the curing. Finally, if feeling adventurous, try drizzling a little good gin or akvavit on top.

Once you've added all your seasoning, cover the salmon with plastic wrap and put tinfoil weights on top in order to compress the salmon, thus 'fusing' the coatings with the flesh of the fish. I use two flat cement blocks wrapped in tinfoil. Put the entire tray with fish and weights in the fridge and allow it to cure for 48 to 72 hours after which time some fluid will seep out of the fish. The flesh will look and feel firmer and the aromas of the herbs and spices will have infiltrated the flesh.

After the curing period, drain all the moisture off the tray, rub off the coating and lightly rinse the excess salt off the flesh then pat it down with a paper towel in order to ensure it is dry. Tightly wrap it with plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge until you wish to use it. Slice it very thinly and enjoy alone for breakfast or garnish with any or all of the following:

- lemon juice or zest

- capers

- fresh chopped dill

- finely sliced shallot or red onion

- grated fresh horseradish

- freshly ground white pepper

- drizzled sour cream or yougurt

- toasted pumpernickel or rye bread

- toasted poppy seed bagel

As far as beverage pairings go, this scrumptious dish is delicious with dry, crisp sparkling or youthful, dry white wines, ice cold vodka, gin or akvavit or a cold northern European lager or pilsner, although the ideal pairing will depend to some degree on which seasonings you use. 

Smaklig måltid (that means bon appetit in Swedish)!

 

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