Gravlax with Creamy Mustard-Dill Sauce
If you're not familiar, gravlax is salt and sugar cured salmon. It's a delicious treat that is so easy to prepare that once you try it, you're sure to make it again and again. You do need to plan ahead though, because even though your hands-on time is little more than 30 minutes, you need to allow at least three full days to complete the recipe. Also, because you're not actually cooking the fish, you'll want to be sure that you start with good quality, very fresh fish from a retailer or fish market you trust.
- 2 lbs salmon fillets, skin on (see recipe notes for buying tips)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
- 8 to 10 sprigs fresh dill, roughly chopped
- For the sauce:
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon sour cream
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
Lay the salmon skin side down on a flat surface and run your finger over the surface of the fillet. Remove any pin bones you might find with a pair of tweezers. Wrap the fillet tightly for freezing and place in the coldest part of your freezer for 24 to 48 hours. Freezing will kill the bacteria, and as long as you don't keep it frozen for more than 48 hours, it won't negatively affect the flavor. After the salmon has been frozen a minimum of 24 hours, defrost it completely in the refrigerator.
Cut the salmon fillet in two pieces. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, salt and cracked black pepper. Spread the mixture in a shallow baking pan and press the skin sides of both pieces of salmon firmly into the salt mixture to coat them. Lay both pieces skin side down on a sheet of plastic wrap. Evenly spread a generous crust of the salt-sugar mixture on top of each fillet and pat down gently. Spread the dill evenly over each piece of salmon, then place one piece on top of the other, skin sides out, creating a sandwich with the dill inside.
Tightly wrap the salmon in the plastic wrap, then place it in a sealed food storage bag in the coldest part of the refrigerator for 48 hours. You may want to place the bag in a shallow dish to catch any leaks. Turn the salmon over twice a day for even curing.
Note: As the salmon cures, it will give off some liquid and become very firm to the touch. If you can see the end of the fillets through your wrapping, you will also notice that the fish darkens in color and develops a translucent sheen.
About 30 minutes before serving, make the sauce and slice the gravlax.
For the sauce, stir the brown sugar and vinegar together in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the mustard, oil and sour cream until smooth. Stir in the fresh dill and place in a serving bowl. Makes about 1/2 cup.
Unwrap the salmon and gently remove all of the dill and salt-sugar mixture with a rubber spatula. To slice, lay the salmon skin side down on a flat surface. Starting at the thickest end, place your knife at a 45° angle and cut very thin slices, down to, but not through the skin. Keeping your knife on an angle, separate the slices from the skin as you work. Arrange the salmon on a serving plate, garnish with fresh sprigs of dill and serve with the sauce.
Makes 8 appetizer servings
When purchasing salmon for this recipe, try to choose a relatively thick fillet ~ about 1 to 1-1/4-inches at the thicker end. Also, because you will be curing the fish in two pieces with the dill sandwiched in between, a fillet that can be cut into somewhat uniformly shaped pieces is ideal.