Gravlax is a delicious delicacy that looks much like smoked salmon, but is cured rather than smoked. It's absurdly easy to make. This Swedish speciality is simply raw salmon cured in a salt-sugar-dill mixture, according to the Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst.
All that is required is salt, sugar, lots of fresh dill and perhaps a splash or two of aquavit or cognac. And don't worry about using too much dill because you cannot overdo it with this.
The salmon is cured through the process of osmosis. You start out seasoning the salmon, laying it on a thick bed of dill and drizzling it with cognac. Wrap it in plastic, place it in a glass baking dish, weigh it down and refrigerate for 24-48 hours.
Weighing it down forces the seasonings into the fish and the moisture out, producing a super-concentrated brine.
After a few days, you end up with deep orange, silky and tender cured salmon. Give it a rinse of all the dill, slice it thin on an angle and arrange it on a platter.
GRAVLAX WITH CAPERS AND CHOPPED RED ONION
3 tbsp white or brown sugar
2 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp cracked coriander seeds, optional
2 tsp freshly ground peppercorn medley ( black, white and pink peppercorns)
450g good-quality, centre-cut salmon fillet, pin bones removed
1 cup chopped dill
1 cup cognac
Thinly sliced red onion
Rye crisps or crostini
Spreadable cream cheese
For the gravlax: In a small bowl combine sugar, salt, coriander seeds and peppercorns. Rinse salmon and pat it dry.
Line a glass baking dish large enough to hold salmon with plastic wrap. Place a good bed of dill on the plastic wrap. Sprinkle the flesh-side of salmon with half of the sugar mixture then rub it all over with the cognac. Place flesh down on top of dill. Sprinkle skin-side of salmon with remaining sugar mixture and top with remaining dill. Wrap tightly. Place a heavyweight can on top or whatever you have. Refrigerate for 24 hours. Turn salmon over, baste with any juices and continue to cure in refrigerator for another 12 hours or longer.
To serve, unwrap salmon and discard liquid. Quickly rinse off the dill and seasoning or wipe it off with a paper towel. Using a sharp knife, thinly slice on an angle. Garnish with capers, red onion and dill. Serve with cream cheese or mustard sauce if desired.
Cook's note: To make the mustard sauce, in a small bowl combine a cup of Dijon mustard, one teaspoon of ground dry mustard, three tablespoons of sugar (or to taste), two tablespoons of white wine vinegar and red hot pepper sauce to taste. Whisk in a third cup of olive oil and two tablespoons of heavy whipping cream. Stir in two to three tablespoons of chopped fresh dill if desired.
Serves: 10 / Preparation time: 10 minutes (plus curing) Total time: 30 minutes (plus curing).