There are certain go-to recipes that I return to again and again. And they frequently don’t make a lick of sense. You can go to any good deli or specialty store and pick up a pound of this luxurious fish for about twenty bucks. Why go to all the trouble to make it yourself? One? It’s cheaper. Two, it’s a total kick to prepare. And three, when you serve it to all your friends they are going to be wayyy impressed.
“You made that?”
“Eeeeyup,” he said nonchalantly, enjoying the looks on people’s faces as it quickly disappears from the serving plate ahead of all the cheeses and charcuterie.
Credit where credit is due, I first discovered this in the oh-so classic tome, The New Basics Cookbook. I give Julie Rosso and Sheila Lukins a boatload of credit for teaching me how to cook. They plucked this delicacy from George Lang, proprietor of the legendary Cafe Des Artistes, a restaurant fancy beyond my means back in the heyday of the 80s. I took one date there. It didn’t work out and I think I just finished paying down that credit card!
Everyone has their own style of utilizing a cookbook and from the New Basics, I refined mine. Memorize the flavors and make the rest up. I’ve been preparing this dish for special occasions forever and it has never let me down.
While the total cooking time is about 36 hours, the prep weighs in around 10 minutes. Plan ahead to have it ready to go for your next fete and prepare to bask in the love.
• 2 lbs. of super fresh wild or farm-raised salmon, skin on
• 1/2 cup kosher salt
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• Two teaspoons of house vodka (nothing fancy)
• 2 tbsp fresh ground or cracked pepper
–Cut the salmon in two equal portions and lay each piece skin side down
–In a single bowl, thoroughly mix together the salt, sugar and pepper
–Using your fingers, rub 1 tsp of vodka into the flesh of each piece of fish
–Again, with the fingers, using them like pincers, spread the salt/sugar/pepper mixture evenly across the entire flesh of each fish. It should be well-covered, but not caked
–Now, make an even sandwich of the two salmon filets, flesh on flesh, so two filets are now one hunk of fish with the skin side on the outer surface on both sides
–Add the salt/sugar/pepper mix to both skin sides
–Place the fish on a deep enough glass platter to capture the liquids that are going to draw out
–Wrap the fish on the platter with Saran Wrap, covering the entire platter (you are NOT vacuum wrapping the fish; it can breathe beneath the wrap
–Place platter in fridge and place a heavy weight (like a brick) on top of the fish. A full square OJ carton works well. So would a brick.
–Let fish sit under the weight for approx. 12 hours. Drain the liquids, flip the fish, and put it back under the weight for another 12 hours. Drain again. Flip once more.
–Give it 12 more hours under weight and it is done. Total time under weight is 36-48 hours.
Unwrap the fish and pull the two pieces apart. With a fork, carefully scrape the salt mixture off the skin.
Set on a carving board and slice paper thin on the bias, laying the tasty little curls of gravlax on your most beautiful platter.
Garnish with dill or green onion or jalapeno – or it can stand on its own silky deliciousness. Place crackers out. Watch for guests popping bits into their mouth sans accompanying cracker.