I love watching the Barefoot Contessa on Food Network. It’s one of my guilty pleasure shows because all the food on her show is just so indulgent. Ina Garten cooks like Paula Deen, but with less butter and a different style. A couple months ago, I borrowed one of Ina’s recipe books from the library and saw this great recipe for making gravlax. Gravlax is basically salt-cured salmon, flavoured with sugar and spices. It is sliced super thin and then eaten with bread and mustard or cream cheese. It tastes almost like smoked salmon, but saltier.
I knew immediately that I wanted to try it, but I also knew that there was no way my mom was going to shell out the cash for salmon unless it was on sale. So I waited and waited and waited. And finally, on our weekend driving lesson/trip to various grocery stores, we came across salmon which was on sale for $5.99 a pound. My mom bought me a fillet and I began my salt-curing adventure.
Using a mortar and pestle, I crushed up the fennel seeds and black pepper corns. Then I stirred the salt, sugar, and spices together and generously covered the blushing peach-coloured salmon with the rub. I set a bunch of dill into the bottom of my ceramic dish and lay the salmon over. I topped the dish with the remaining dill and covered it with plastic wrap. The final step was to lay some cans over the fish and set the entire dish in the fridge.
After one day, I checked on my gravlax. The thin part of the fillet had already over-cured. It looked almost translucent and was chewy and overly salty. I basted the rest of the gravlax with the liquid that had collected in the bottom of the dish and set it back in the fridge. The next day, I checked the salmon again. I didn’t know whether the salmon had cured long enough yet, but I was dying to try it anyways. I sliced the gravlax (with my very dull knife) as thin as I could and served with bread and mustard sauce and a couple garnishes of dill. It was delicious and so fresh-tasting; it didn’t taste fishy at all. The gravlax was great in sandwiches and with a generous smear of cream cheese.
Click below for the recipe.
Gravlax with Mustard Sauce
Source: Back to Basics by Ina Garten
Serves: 20 to 30
- 1 ½ pound center-cut fresh salmon filet
- 1 large bunch of fresh dill, plus extra for garnish
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoons black peppercorns, crushed
- 1 ½ teaspoons whole fennel seeds, crushed
- bread, for serving
- ¼ cup Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon dry ground mustard
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
For the gravlax, remove the skin and cut the salmon fillet into 2 pieces crosswise. Wash and shake dry the dill and arrange it over the fish. Combine salt, sugar, peppercorns, and fennel seeds in a small bowl and sprinkle it evenly over the dill. Place the other piece of salmon over the dill and spices, skin side up. Cover the dish with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Place some heavy cans over top. Refrigerate the salmon for at least 2 to 3 days, turning it every 12 hours and basting it with the liquid that collects.
For the mustard sauce, combine the Dijon mustard, ground mustard, sugar, and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil and stir in the chopped dill.
To serve, lay the salmon fillets flat on a cutting board and scrape of most of the dill and spices. Slice with a long, thin knife. Lay slices of bread on a cutting board, spread with mustard sauce, and place a slice of salmon on top. Decorate with a sprig of dill and serve at room temperature. Alternatively, serve the gravlax with bread and cream cheese.