Saturday, 24 December 2011

Gravlax with Dill Cucumbers

My husband and I are big on holiday "picnics". Both Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, and quite often my Birthday Eve and Mother's Day Eve, we have a beautiful array of cheeses, breads, olives, pâtés, crunchy fruits or veggies and, on extra special occasions, I will make gravlax.

Have you ever had gravlax? If you like smoked salmon, you will like gravlax. The fish is cured in a seasoned salt/sugar mixture, in your fridge, for 3-4 days - depending on the recipe. It is a little more intense than smoked salmon, but I like that. Plus, you have the joy of knowing you cured it yourself. Huzzah!

Wiki on Gravlax
Gravlax or gravad lax (Swedish), gravad laks (Danish), gravlaks (Norwegian, Danish), graavilohi (Finnish), graavilõhe (Estonian), graflax (Icelandic) is a Nordic dish consisting of raw salmon, cured in salt, sugar, and dill. Gravlax is usually served as an appetizer, sliced thinly and accompanied by hovmästarsås (also known as gravlaxsås), a dill and mustard sauce, either on bread of some kind, or with boiled potatoes.

During the Middle Ages, gravlax was made by fishermen, who salted the salmon and lightly fermented it by burying it in the sand above the high-tide line. The word gravlax comes from the Scandinavian word grav, which literally means "grave" or "to dig" (in Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch and Estonian), and lax (or laks), which means "salmon", thus gravlax means "buried salmon".

Today fermentation is no longer used in the production process. Instead the salmon is "buried" in a dry marinade of salt, sugar, and dill, and cured for a few days. As the salmon cures, by the action of osmosis, the moisture turns the dry cure into a highly concentrated brine, which can be used in Scandinavian cooking as part of a sauce. This same method of curing can be used for any fatty fish, but salmon is the most common.

Gravlax with Dill Cucumbers
adapted from Tessa Kiros, Falling Cloudberries
for I♥CC Holiday Goodies

½ cup white sugar
2/3 cup coarse salt
2½ cups fresh dill
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper

2 whole fillets salmon (cleaned and deboned, with skin left on)

Dill Cucumbers 
1 English cucumber, sliced thin
1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
½ cup white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 tsp salt

Chopped fresh dill, lemons and capers for garnish.

Make the Gravlax:
Combine the sugar, salt, dill and pepper in a bowl. Lay a sheet of wax or parchment paper down and place 1/3 of the mixture down. Pat out about the size of the fillet. Place the fillet, skin side down, on the salt mixture. Place another 1/3 of the mixture on the fillet. Pat to coat evenly. Place the second fillet on top, skin side up. Place the last third of the mixture evenly on top and wrap up in the parchment or wax paper. Place bundle on a sheet of foil and wrap again, firmly Place bundle in a small dish to contain it.
Let sit in the fridge for 4 days, turning every day.
Scrape off mixture (or rinse, for a less salty flavour).
Peel off skin and slice the fish thinly.
Serve with the cucumbers, lemon, and capers. Good mustards are also nice, like this Finnish Mustard that my friend Sue made from the same book.

Make the Cucumbers:
Combine the dressing ingredients and pout over the thinly sliced cukes in a shallow bowl. Let sit at least 2 hours.

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