Gravlax is a great treat, and a snap to make. It just needs a couple days’ advance planning, just like all cured, pickled, fermented foods. And the rewards are great.
I own six bricks, which I use only for the preparation of gravlax. Once I passed a construction site and simply asked one of the workers if I could have some of his bricks. He eyed me suspiciously and asked what I intended to do with them. When I told him I wanted to use them as weights on a salmon dish, he looked totally baffled and asked, “Lady, can’t you just buy lox, like we all do?” But he did give me the bricks, although I heard him chuckle with his working pals, as I hobbled away with two massive bags, praying for a cab. Some time later, I spotted bricks at my neighborhood lumber store, selling for 99 cents each. So, either buy them or ask a nice guy at a construction site. Forget about food cans that wobble precariously on top of your salmon, threatening to swerve off at any moment.
I gamely share the credit for this treat with the bricks. Because they are dense and compact and have such a flat, steady surface, bricks compress the salmon perfectly and cure it effortlessly. Weighing down the salmon with the bricks, and turning it over morning and evening for 2-3 days is the secret of gravlax, this is precisely what cures the salmon, easily and naturally. Do not skip these very easy and quick steps, or you will simply not get gravlax.
I love gravlax, not only because it is so delicious, but because it is cured with much less salt than commercial lox and all other smoked salmon varieties. This will make you lots of serving. Watch it disappear on a buffet, or make a good 2 dozen first course servings. Of course you can divide the whole recipe.
- 2 sides whole salmon, all bones removed, skin on, tail ends cut off
- ½ cup kosher salt
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup black peppercorns, very coarsely crushed with a rolling pin (settle for store-bought coarsely ground black pepper)
- ¼ cup coriander seeds, coarsely crushed with a rolling pin
- 3 large bunches fresh dill, fronds and stems
Clean the salmon thoroughly, and dry thoroughly with paper towels.
In a bowl, combine the salt, sugar, pepper and coriander seeds. Rub the mixture on the salmon (flesh side, not skin side). Use all of the mixture. Pile dill on one side of the salmon, skin side down. Pile the second side on the first side, skin side up. Wrap the salmon very tightly in plastic wrap, and place on a big tray that will trap any juices. Refrigerate, with the bricks on top.
Turn the salmon over once in the morning and once at night for two days, or up to three days, always putting the weights back on. Unwrap the salmon and remove the dill, taking care not to scrape off the spice mixture. Slice on the bias very thinly with a sharp, long knife, discarding the skin. Serve with lemon wedges and capers.