In terms of simplicity, deliciousness, and show-stopping technique: this one does it all. Serve it with rye crackers, sourdough bread or a bagel with mustard spread. Then shove off for a journey into the Nordic Fjords.
- ½ lb coho, sockeye, king salmon or sablefish
- 1 Tbsp lemon peel, zested or finely chopped
- 1-2 tsp dried dill (3-6 tsp fresh dill)
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- ½ tsp whole peppercorns
- 6-7 cloves
- 4½ tsp coarse salt
- 5½ tsp sugar
- Mustard Crema:
- 2 tsp English-style brown mustard
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp capers, chopped
- 3 Tbsp crème fraîche or plain greek yogurt
- 2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
Thaw the fish and remove any pin bones (pin bone removal exception with sablefish). Add lemon zest, dry dill, coriander, peppercorns, and cloves into a mortar and grind gently to break up seeds. Do not grind too finely. Add sugar and salt and combine.
Cover the bottom of glass or ceramic dish large enough for fish to lay flat, with parchment paper and sprinkle half of the seasoning mix on top of paper. Place fish on top of seasoning and cover with remaining spice mixture. Place a second sheet of parchment paper over the fish to cover. Leave sides of parchment open. Place a 1-2 pound weight on top of fish and put ensemble in fridge.
After 10-12 hours drain any liquid from pan and place fish back in the fridge for another 12 hours. At that time, slice a small piece to sample. If a stronger sugar and salt flavor is desired, put it back in the fridge and cure for another 12-24 hours or up to 6 days, draining as often as needed.
Once the desired flavor is achieved, remove the cured fish from the fridge, unwrap and rinse off the spices. Pat dry immediately. Place fish in an open container and put back in the fridge to dry and develop a glossy almost tacky surface which will increase its shelf life and develop the perfect texture, 5-10 hours for this very important step.
For the mustard crema, combine all ingredients in small bowl and whisk.
Serve + Enjoy
To serve, slice the fish as thinly as possible with a very sharp knife. Top a toasted bagel, sourdough bread or rye cracker with a slice of gravadlax and mustard crema. Add pickled onions, if desired.
Skin - You can choose to leave skin on or remove it. I believe skin on creates a slightly fishier taste but it also helps slow the curing process a bit and thus build a deeper spice flavor. It's a personal preference. Try it both ways for yourself. If you remove skin also be sure to trim and remove any gray insulated fat from the fish as well.
Draining- If the fish is not drained every 12 hours, the liquid will reabsorb back into the meat, essentially brinning the fish and it will become far too salty and sweet.
Dill and Liquor- Loads of fresh dill and a little brandy or vodka is very traditional for curing gravadlax. If you have those things available they can easily be added to this recipe. 1 large bunch of dill layered around the fish and 1 oz of brandy/vodka poured into the spice mixture before application should do the trick.
Timing- This recipe is best after 24-36 hours. When curing sablefish, do not go beyond 36 hours with the cure because the fillets are thinner and more delicate than salmon. Once cured, gravadlax should last up to a week in your fridge. It also freezes nicely.
- 24 hours (light-minimum, great place to start)
- 48 hours (medium cure)
- 72 hours (long cure)
- 4-6 days (if you want to experiment)
Weight - Weighing down your fish is not 100% necessary, but if you want to create a little more texture in your gravadlax place a small bowl or container on top of the parchment paper covering the fish and add rocks or anything that can fill the bowl. Weight should not exceed 2 pounds.
Salt to sugar ratio-The most important part of this process is the salt to sugar ratio. The sweet spot is using a 1:1 ratio of salt to sugar that equals a combined weight that is 25% of the total weight of the fish you are curing. So for 1/2 pound (225g) of fish you will use about 30g sugar (5 ½ tsp) and 30g coarse salt (4 ½ tsp). You can tilt this to be sweeter or saltier, but I would start here at 1:1.
Wild at Home
- with Richie Mann -
Gravadlax, Gravlax, Lax, Lox, This is an ancient Nordic dish that translates to “buried salmon.” All you need is salt, sugar, and time. If you’ve ever had bagels and lox then you’ll love this at home technique. The curing process results in a fatty dense texture of your sablefish/salmon and the natural flavor of the fish will be brightened by the sugar, salt, clove, lemon and pepper. Mastering this technique will elevate your street cred’ and give you a reason to buy more bagels.