Gravlax

Published January 1, 1996.

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Why this recipe works:

We wanted an easy gravlax recipe for evenly moist and tender salmon that was consistently salted throughout. A wet brine in red onion juice ensured that the salt and other curing ingredients were evenly distributed throughout the salmon fillet, producing a moist gravlax recipe with great… read more

We wanted an easy gravlax recipe for evenly moist and tender salmon that was consistently salted throughout. A wet brine in red onion juice ensured that the salt and other curing ingredients were evenly distributed throughout the salmon fillet, producing a moist gravlax recipe with great texture. The procedure was simple enough: We skinned the salmon and placed the fillet and curing ingredients in a zipper-lock bag, thereby maximizing brine penetration and eliminating the need to flip the fillet. All the fish needed was to be weighted down and refrigerated for 12 to 18 hours (depending on thickness).

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Makes 1 side of cured salmon

If you have a juicer, you may use it to make the onion juice. Although a little more time-consuming, onion juice can also be made by grinding onions in a food processor until liquefied, about four minutes. Strain the onions through a double thickness of cheesecloth, squeezing to extract the juice. Serve sliced gravlax with lightly toasted rye bread and the related recipes (Onion Relish and Cilantro Cream).

Ingredients

  • 3 medium red onions, peeled, quartered, juiced, and foam skimmed to yield 2 about 2 cups juice (see note above)
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 cups chopped fresh dill leaves (both stems and leaves)
  • 1 whole salmon fillet (3 to 4 pounds), skinned, excess fat and brown flesh removed, and bones removed with tweezers (see illustrations 1 through 5)
  • 1 cup minced fresh dill

Instructions

  1. 1. Pour onion juice into 4-cup glass measure. Add salt and sugar; stir to dissolve. Stir in pepper and the coarsely chopped dill.

    2. Place salmon in 2-gallon zipper-lock bag. Pour in marinade, seal bag, and place on jelly roll pan (illustration 6). Marinade should barely cover fish. Place second jelly roll pan over fish and set about 7 pounds of weight (heavy cans or bricks work well) on top pan (illustration 7). Refrigerate weighted fish until very firm, 12 to 18 hours, depending on thickness of fish.

    3. Remove salmon fillet from bag and dry with paper towels. Evenly distribute the minced dill over belly side of the fillet, then press dill into flesh (illustration 8). (Gravlax can be wrapped in parchment paper then plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 1 week.)

    4. Just before serving, place fillet, belly side up, on work surface. Following illustrations 9 and 10, slice desired amount of gravlax. Rewrap and refrigerate unsliced gravlax for later use.

Step-by-Step

Gravlax

1. With the tail of the salmon pointing perpendicularly to your body, make a small cut just above the tail end. Cut down through the meat but stop just before you get to the skin.

2. Holding onto the tail end by the skin, run a long, flexible slicing knife between the flesh and the skin. Keeping the skin taut and checking the edges of the fillet to make sure the knife is just above the skin, slide the blade toward the head end until the skin is completely removed.

3. Use the slicing knife to trim any excess white fat from the fillet. Fat is most concentrated along the edges of the fillet.

4. Turn the fillet over and trim off any brownish flesh or white fat. Fillets should be uniformly orange.

5. Pin bones run from the head end about halfway back along the fillet. Feel for these bones and pull them toward the head end with small tweezers to remove.

6. Place the salmon in a 2-gallon zipper-lock bag, add the marinade, seal the bag, and place it on a jelly roll pan.

7. Place a second jelly roll pan over the fish and set about 7 pounds of weight (heavy cans or bricks work well) on the top pan.

8. Evenly distribute minced dill over the belly side of the fish, then press the dill into the flesh.

9. Starting at the tail end, make a cut on the bias back toward the tail. Hold the knife at about a 20-degree angle and make a slice about 1/8 inch thick.

10. Continue making cuts, moving 1/8 inch up toward the head end each time, slicing desired amount.

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