This Gravlax is a practically unadulterated version of that shared with me by Dennis – my late father in law. Dennis died earlier this year so this is a tribute to him. The gravlax was his domain every year and it is also mine. I love preparing it, I love the smell of it, and most of all I love the taste of it on Christmas morning with hot buttered toast and scrambled eggs. And a glass of something cold and sparkling. Then let the present-opening commence. Another ‘best way’ is on dark rye bread with a gherkin.
Maybe the bestest way is to eat it is late at night when everyone else has gone to bed – shave some slivers off the salmon and eat it illuminated by the fridge light, standing with your back to the kitchen (because if you have your back to the kitchen whilst stealing something from the fridge a) whatever you are stealing has no calories and b) you might get away with bluffing it if you are caught). You might possibly want to – dip the ends into a little horseradish-laced mayonnaise, clutching a cold roast potato in the other hand. Naughty. Nice.
For 8 people, sufficient to last you a couple of days, you will need one (or two) middle cuts of salmon, each weighing about 400g. Ask for the middle cut because the shape and thickness will be symmetrical. Leave the skin on. Use tweezers to ensure all the bones are removed (run your fingers along the length of the salmon and you will be able to feel it if there are any bones – they stick up like little teeth). Just tweezer them out either with special fish-bone tweezers. Or with your own eyebrow tweezers. Just clean them before and after – can’t have your eyebrows smelling like fish!
Trim the fish so it is roughly rectangular, if you need to. Now mix 1 tbsp black peppercorns (ground) with 50g coarse sea salt, 100g chopped fresh dill and 70g caster sugar. This is the cure for the fish. Line a dish (or airtight container) with clingfilm so it hangs over the edges. The container should be almost the same size as the salmon. Add thinly sliced white or red onion and a thinly sliced eating apple so it lines the base of the container. If you use only one fillet, simply cover it completely with the cure and sprinkle with some vodka, wrap it and turn as Method 1.
Method 1 – Place the salmon skin side down then pile on about 90% of the cure and put the other piece of salmon on top skin side, up and then the remaining 10% of the cure, so it’s like a sandwich. Wrap the clingfilm round to make a parcel, then place even weights on top of the fish parcel (use a small board if you can, to get even compression)
Method 2 – my preference – place the first fillet skin side down, pile on 50% of the cure, then the second fillet skin side down and cover with the rest of the cure. Then for both methods drizzle about 150ml vodka over the top. Put clingfilm over the top and drape it down the sides. Then place even weights on a small board on top of the fish to get even compression. Anything heavy will do. Then leave it, completely covered for 5 days (no turning).
As you can see from these pictures, I use Method 2. I have also drowned it in sloe gin instead of vodka. This makes for a very distinctive gravlax – with a pretty mouthwatering alcohol edge!!
On Christmas Eve, remove the clingfilm – whether you used Method 1 or 2. Keep the fish in the container and cover with a cloth to let it breathe.
On Christmas Day, lift one fillet out of the container, scrape off the cure, then shave off thin slices and serve whatever way you wish.
A lovely sauce to serve with it is a good mayonnaise spiked with creamed horseradish, or cold full-fat yogurt with finely chopped cucumber, cornichon and capers.
You might like to try this with Knakerbrod, click on the link.
It really is that simple.