When I lived in Portland, I was lucky to eat salmon fresh from the Columbia River. Many of my friends who live in Oregon love fishing, and I was grateful to eat salmon often during the fishing season.
Earlier this week, I purchased a wild sockeye salmon from the local fish market. Sockeye salmon has beautiful firm flesh that is dark orange-red. The fishing season for sockeye salmon is during the summer months in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington. Most sockeye salmon available at fish markets weigh between three and six pounds. The whole salmon I purchased to prepare gravlax weighed approximately five pounds prior to being filleted. The fishmonger filleted the salmon, scaled the skin, and removed the pin bones for me.
(adapted from Simply Salmon by James Peterson)
Makes 2 fillets of cured salmon
- 1 whole salmon, filleted, scaled, and pin bones removed
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup coarse sea salt
- 1 bunch of dill
Prepare 3 layers of aluminum foil approximately 3 times the width and 2 times the length of one of the salmon fillets.
Combine the sugar and salt in a small bowl. Spread ½ cup of the mixture on the prepared aluminum foil and place one of the salmon fillets skin side down on the mixture. The entire skin should be in contact with the sugar and salt mixture. Spread ½ cup of the mixture on the flesh of the salmon. Place the dill on the salmon covering the entire surface. Spread another ½ cup of the sugar and salt mixture on top of the dill. Cover with the second salmon fillet. Rub the skin side of the second fillet with the remaining ½ cup of the mixture and wrap the entire salmon tightly with the aluminum foil.
Place the wrapped salmon on a rimmed baking pan. Set an additional baking pan on top of the salmon and weight the pan with several cans or sauce pans. Store the salmon in the refrigerator for 48 hours to allow it to cure. During the curing time remove the weights and turn the salmon every 12 hours. Some liquid may accumulate on the bottom of the baking pan as the salmon cures. Replace the weights on the salmon and continue to cure for the allotted time.
After the salmon has cured for 48 hours, unwrap the fish and rinse briefly to remove the sugar, salt, and dill. Dry the gravlax. Remove the skin from the salmon and slice thinly. Gravlax will keep refrigerated for 3 days and frozen for 3 months.
Sliced gravlax can be served with fresh goat cheese and black pepper on toasted bread, with cream cheese and cucumbers on a bagel, or with scrambled eggs. I chopped the pieces of gravlax that were too small to slice and prepared a simple tartar by adding capers, minced red onion, and black pepper. The tartar is delicious served with lemon and crackers.