Sunday, December 31, 2006


Based on a recipe in the New York Times Cookbook (Revised Edition)
1 (3 1/2-to-4 lb) center cut of salmon, filleted but with skin left intact.
(OK, we've often bought skinless farm-raised salmon at Costco. It's fine. Having the skin on makes it easier to cut after it's done, especially near the tail. OTOH, the skinless Costco fillets don't have any brown fat along the lateral line. Most people prefer not having that part, though)
3 tablespoons peppercorns (OK, LARGE, crushed peppercorns, via the supermarket) but not ordinary ground pepper
5 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons kosher salt or sea salt (coarse)
2 to 3 bunches (about 1/4 lb. dill sprigs

1. Carefully run the fingers over the boned surface of the fillet, especially over the center line. Use a pair of tweezers to pull out and remove any bones that may remain. Discard the bones.

2. Put the peppercorns on a flat surface and crush them coarsely with a mallet or the bottom of a clean skillet, or crush them in a mortar. If you have a peppermill that grinds coarse pieces, use that. Put the pepper in a small bowl and add the salt and sugar. Mix. Of course you can simply BUY coarse ground pepper. That's what WE do.

3. Cut the salmon fillet in half crosswise and place the two halves skin side down in one layer. COAT LIBERALLY the two pieces of fish with the salt-pepper-sugar mixture. Food TV Emeril doesn't cut it in half. He also adds vodka. Be creative.

4. Find a roasting pan or tupperware large enough to hold the larger half of the fish. Line it with aluminum foil that’s more than twice the size of the pan (you’re going to wrap the fish in it). Put a layer of dill on the foil. Put the larger fillet skin down on the dill. Put another layer of dill on the top (flesh side of the fish that’s coated with the mix). Now put the other fillet flesh down on the dill, and add a bit more dill on the skin side that’s now on top and facing you. Close the foil around the whole thing.

4. It’s going to leak! (Your fingers will smell soooooo nice.) Take the foil pack out of the pan and wrap it up in freezer paper, and seal with masking tape. NOW wrap THAT in a plastic grocery bag, squooshing out the air. Seal IT with masking tape or similar. Yeah, it'll still leak. Put it back in the pan. Get something flat, like a cutting board, and put it on the package. Get a brick, or free weights, or even a couple of cans from the pantry, and put it on the flat thing, so that the fish is being pushed down. NOW PUT IT IN THE REFRIGERATOR.

5. Turn the fish package in the morning and evening at the very least, so you are weighting down each side two or three times a day. If you can schedule the turn every 8 hours, fine. OTOH, some people say that the turning is unnecessary. Perhaps, but then, you wouldn't FEEL like you're actually doing anything, so, TURN THE DAMN THING!

Emeril says that 24 hours does it, but we go 2 1/2 days. I think that's a half day too long, but the boss insists. The longer it goes, the drier it gets. Why fight? It's still wonderful.

6. Wash everything off (we wash off most of the pepper) and dab dry with paper towels before slicing thin-thin-thin at an angle. Lately, I've been cutting the filets in half (the long way, down the fish's lateral line) before slicing. The resulting pieces are smaller and it's much easier to cut than going all the way across. The pieces are also closer to bite-size and fit nicely on crackers, plus the smaller slices plate nicely.

7. Eat the traditional way on a bagel (I prefer a bialy) or even just plain!

The Scandinavians dip their gravlax in a mustard sauce.
1/4 cup prepared spicy-brown mustard
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup corn, peanut or vegetable oil
1 cup chopped dill
2 tablespoons cognac

1. Put the mustards, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper into a mixing bowl.
2. Start beating with a wire whisk whilst adding the oil in a thin, steady stream. At the end, add the cognac.

We don't do the dip. We just put it on a bagel, or a bialy, or even on a cracker with chive cream cheese. A local shop makes the cream cheese with chives daily (aren't WE lucky!). A few capers and/or onions or scallions are a nice touch on top if you make canapes.

Eat. Share if you must.

Did you try this recipe? How did YOURS turn out? (ours is always wonderful.)


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