Gravlax: Buried Salmon. A universal crowd pleaser, ridonkulously easy, and way cheaper and better to make than it is to buy. If you are having people over for New Year’s, and you can get hold of some good quality fresh salmon, you need to make this. Here’s how.
Two or three days ahead of serving time, get yourself a chunk (fillet, not steak) of organic, Atlantic salmon. Organic: because the other stuff is full of crap. Atlantic: because you need the high fat content. How big a chunk? Less than 2 pounds would be awkward to slice. Anything from that, on up to a whole side of salmon. But! Don’t make the mistake I made a few months ago, which was to buy a thin, little salmon side: this is a good way to end up with super-salty salmon jerky. You want a full inch or inch-and-a-half thick fillet.
Run your fingers down the length of it, against the grain. You’ll likely feel one or perhaps two rows of bones that need to be removed, with the impeccably clean tweezers or needle-nosed pliers that you doubtless have on hand for such occasions.
Line a high-sided glass or nonreactive metal container with some plastic wrap. Lay the salmon on it, skin-side down. Cover it with a mixture of equal parts sugar and fine-grained sea salt. Not table salt, ’cause that has more iodine than you need. You can use kosher salt, as long as you mind the conversion factor: 2 parts table salt = 3 parts Morton kosher = 4 parts Diamond Crystal kosher.
Our 2 lb. piece of salmon needed 3/4 cup of sugar and 3/4 cup of fine salt. Into that, we mixed about 2 tbsp of crushed peppercorns, and several crushed juniper berries. We also doused the salmon in 1/4 cup of Beefeater gin before applying the cure. (Or was the gin the cure?) Anyway – the gin and juniper are optional. The dill (one large bunch, roughly chopped) is not optional.)
Wrap the whole lot up tightly in plastic wrap, turn it skin-side up, and weigh it down with an appropriately sized pan, cedar plank, or whatever, with some canned goods on top for added heft:
Refrigerate for anywhere between 30 and 72 hours. If you remember to do so, you can flip the salmon once or twice. It doesn’t make much difference.
Afterwards, unwrap your salmon, remove the carpet of dill and the crust of spicy-liquid crystal deliciousness, give it a quick rinse and pat-down (for homeland security), and Ingmar’s your uncle:
Slice it as thinly as possible, on the diagonal (a loooong, sharp slicer-knife does a good job at this.) We like it on best FinnCrisp rye crackers, with any of the following garnish combinations:
A drop of lemon juice and a few capers
Thinly sliced shallots (or red onions) and sour cream
Finely chopped fresh dill and horseradish creme fraiche