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Recipe File: Gravlax
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Cooking For Engineers



Joined: 10 May 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2005 5:53 pm    Post subject: Recipe File: Gravlax Reply with quote


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In Scandinavia, there is a simple (yet amazing) way of preparing salmon that produces an amazing appetizer with clean flavors and a remarkable texture. This traditional dish is similar (but not quite the same) to lox (cured salmon that has been cold smoked) and is sometimes referred to as Gravad lox. Gravlax in its minimalist form uses only four ingredients: salmon, salt, sugar, and dill weed. I prepare gravlax with a bit of black pepper added to the mix.

Gravlax (pronounced "grov-lox") is from the Swedish name for this dish. Norwegians call it gravlaks and the Danish refer to it as Gravad laks. It literally means "buried salmon" and the name refers to the traditional method of preparation for this food: fresh salmon was heavy salted and buried in dry sand to ferment and cure.

Parasites, such as roundworms, can naturally reside in salmon regardless of if it was frozen or fresh. For safety, use salmon that has been commercially frozen or freeze the salmon yourself to at least -10°F (-23°C) for at least 7 days. Alternatively, you can freeze the salmon after you have cured the fish, but make sure you reach those minimum conditions. My freezer's not set up to go that low, so I buy my salmon frozen when preparing this dish. (The freezing kills the parasites.) Before you begin, thaw the salmon completely.

For every pound (450 g) of salmon, prepare 2 tablespoons (about 30 g) kosher salt, 2 tablespoons (25 g) sugar, 2 teaspoons ground black pepper (4.2 g), and a handful of dill. For gravlax, use filet cuts (fish portioned with cuts parallel to the backbone), not steak cuts (fish portioned with cuts going through the backbone). In the example shown, I used a 1-1/2 pound salmon filet (completely thawed), so I set aside 3 tablespoons each of kosher salt and sugar as well as 3 teaspoons of pepper. There are a lot of gravlax recipes out there that uses all sorts of other ingredients to provide additional flavors. I prefer the clean taste of the salmon and encourage everyone to try this recipe first before adding more ingredients.
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Examine the salmon for bones by visual inspection and by touch. If you find any bones, remove them with needle nose pliers. Draping the salmon over an inverted bowl or holding the filet up with one hand so it drapes (like a towel over the arm of a maitre d'hotel) will help force the tips of the bones up, making them easy to grasp and remove. Place the salmon on a large piece of plastic wrap (about three to four times the length of the filet) with the skin side down.

Put the salt, sugar, and black pepper into a bowl and mix until evenly distributed. Spoon the mixture onto the exposed salmon flesh, making sure to cover as much of the exposed areas as possible.
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Place the dill on top of the salmon. If the dill is too long to fit on top of the filet, then snap off the stems or fold the dill over. It's best not to chop up the dill. We'll be removing the dill later, so having large pieces makes it easier to work with. How much dill should you layer on? They say, the more dill the better. I don't know how many sprigs I put on the salmon, but, as you can see in the photo, the dill is piled quite high.
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Wrap the salmon, salt, dill sandwich up, tightly, in the plastic wrap. Take a second sheet of plastic wrap and wrap again. Place the package in a baking dish or container. You won't be baking this -- the container is there to catch the juices that will inevitable flow from the package during the curing. We'll be placing this in the refrigerator.
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Refrigerate the salmon for at least two days. Continued refrigeration in the package will intensify flavors. Usually, I can't wait longer than three days. At this point, remove the container from the refrigerator, open the package, remove the dill, and rinse in water. In short, just wash the gravlax. If any pieces of salt or pepper are stuck to the flesh, just wipe it gently off. Dry with a paper towel.

I should probably mention, at this point, that many recipes call for the use of bricks or heavy weights to be placed on the salmon package. Some recipes also call for turning the package over every twelve hours to redistribute the juices. Both of these steps seem to be unnecessary. It may be blasphemy to say so, but you can achieve perfectly cured gravlax without the weight and without the turning.

Use a sharp knife to cut the gravlax. (Filet knives, boning knives, and Japanese sashimi knives work well for this role.) Position the gravlax so you will be cutting from the tail end (the small end) first. The gravlax should be sliced thinly on the bias (at an angle). Each slice should be detached from the skin.
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The gravlax can be served by itself, on top of toasted bread, crackers, or any other way you would serve a smoked salmon appetizer. A squeeze of lemon juice or a slice of lemon (especially Meyer lemon) can also be a welcome touch.

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Gravlax (recipe can be scaled)
1 lb. (450 g) frozen salmon filetthaw completely & remove bonescover salmoncover salmondouble wrap in plastic wraprefrigerate at least 48 hoursrinse and dryslice on bias
2 Tbs. (~30 g) kosher saltmix
2 Tbs. (25 g) granulated sugar
2 tsp. (4.2 g) ground black pepper
20 sprigs fresh dill weed

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Elizabeth
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2005 11:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You say to refrigerate the salmon skin side up, but the photo shows it skin side down. Which is preferred?
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jillian
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2005 3:18 am    Post subject: Food Blogger Challenge for Disaster Aid! Reply with quote

I challenge other food bloggers to give aid to those who worked in the food industry and made New Orleans so flavorful:

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Call 713-333-2200 for additional information

http://www.commanderspalace.com/new_orleans/index.php
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1619
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2005 5:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Elizabeth wrote:
You say to refrigerate the salmon skin side up, but the photo shows it skin side down. Which is preferred?

Hmmm... I don't know why I said skin side up or down. I don't think it matters to the final product. I've removed it from the article to reduce confusion.

This is a good example of how multitasking can degrade the quality of your work. Smile
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Sithean
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2005 8:04 pm    Post subject: Gravlax Reply with quote

Oh, well done! I can't wait to try this. Thank you.
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tony41153
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2005 8:18 pm    Post subject: Sounds Good Reply with quote

I'm gonna give it a try. Sounds like a great way to start a party.
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LAN3
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2005 11:13 pm    Post subject: Adding Alcohol Reply with quote

I've heard of recipes that call for the addition of liquor (cognac, vodka, aquavit) to the mix, and even one that, in place of pepper, used crushed juniper berries and added gin, for a slightly different taste. So I'm a little surprised to see this "dry" recipe. Any comments on adding alcohol?
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Jacob W
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2005 2:22 pm    Post subject: Local flavor Reply with quote

I'm going to throw in my expertise here as a Swede and accomplished "gravare". Smile (not to mention engineer)

First, the salmon should actually lay on both sides, as Gravad Lax is stored two fillets at a time with the fleshy sides facing, and should be turned a couple of times while refridgerated.

I can honestly say that I have never encountered a Gravad lax with alcohol as a part of the actual recipe/seasoning. Aquavit however, is nothing less than a requirement to be served with the salmon if you want true scandinavian style gravad lax.

Further, hovmästarsauce is the addition of choice for this "basic" recipe. Mix 1 Tbs sugar, 1 Tbs white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Add 1dl (6.66 Tbs) of vegetable oil in drop by drop while whipping forcefully. The sauce is to be thick and glossy. If the oil is added too fast then the suce might cut. Finally add 3 Tbs of short dill weed.

Jacob W
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1619
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2005 3:29 am    Post subject: Re: Local flavor Reply with quote

Jacob W wrote:
First, the salmon should actually lay on both sides, as Gravad Lax is stored two fillets at a time with the fleshy sides facing, and should be turned a couple of times while refridgerated.

To prepare the gravlax in the traditional method, cut the filet in half (top to bottom, not head to tail). Cover both pieces with the salt mixture and sandwich the dill in between them (flesh sides facing flesh sides as Jacob says). The gravlax should be flipped over every twelves hours. The problem is, I've prepared gravlax both ways and I can't tell the difference. So, I don't bother with the two piece sandwich anymore and usually don't even bother flipping. Sometimes I flip after a day and half because I like to touch and I can't keep my hands off my food.

Jacob W wrote:
I can honestly say that I have never encountered a Gravad lax with alcohol as a part of the actual recipe/seasoning.

I also have not tried any gravlax prepared with alcohol. I wonder how that tastes.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2005 8:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michael Chu wrote:
The problem is, I've prepared gravlax both ways and I can't tell the difference. So, I don't bother with the two piece sandwich anymore and usually don't even bother flipping. Sometimes I flip after a day and half because I like to touch and I can't keep my hands off my food.


Ohhhh careful, you thread on dangerous ground. Gravnings-purists would have your head for that sentiment. Wink

Jacob W
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2005 4:11 pm    Post subject: Choosing salmon Reply with quote

Help, I love salmon but have absolutely no idea how to choose it.

What do I look for? How is the label marked so that I know it has been frozen to the right temperature? What else does a label say that is meaningful?

What about fresh salmon, how do I pick a good steak? How do I kill the microorganisms?

I've seen different packages at the market but don't know how to choose or even interpret the labels. I tried some smoked salmon once and it turned out tough and dry.

I once had some fantastic thinly sliced smoked salmon at a ski resort. I haven't been able to find anything like it since then, but it sounds like it may have been something akin to lox.

One other thing, if buying frozen, how do I thaw it? In the refrigerator for 3 days? In warm water in the sink a couple hours? Which way is best/safest?

Thanks, the recipe looks great,
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2005 6:47 pm    Post subject: Gravlax Reply with quote

This is a very good and detailed description of how to make Gravlax. It really is that easy and it has always come out good for me. A few times I have got gravlax, in restaurants, that have been too salty. My guess is that it had been left too long in the salt mix. I have a few other comments:

1. The main difference between this recipe and others I have seen, is that it shows only part of a full filet. It's good to know that a relatively small amount can be prepared in this way. However, if an entire filet is used, the recommended procedure is to cut it into a head and a tail part of equal length. These pieces are then put together in such a way that the thin part of one piece meets the thick part of the other, forming a combined piece of approximately uniform thickness. Before they are put together all sides are covered with the salt mixture and a generous amount of dill is put in between the pieces. This variation may explain the confusion about the skin side of the salmon. When two pieces are put together the skin-sides will be on the outside, whether the filet still have skin or not.
2. I'm sceptical to the proposed etymology of the word "gravlax". I have never heard of preparing salmon by burying it, even in the past. The Swedish word "grav" can also mean a water-filled depression, such as a moat or an especially deep area of the sea.
3. I don't know why the recipe specifies kosher salt, since that's rarely used in Scandinavia. Maybe the point is that it must be real salt, not low-sodium or other substitutes.
4. I second the opinion that the basic recipe can't be improved on, except with a little bit of pepper.
5. I agree that the more dill the better. I put dill over and under too.
6. In my experience no amount of plastic wrap can contain the juices completely, it's messy. The best would probably be to use a zip-lock bag, but I have never had a big enough bag handy.
7. I agree that weights don't seem to accomplish anything. My guess is that weights might have helped keeping the salmon immersed in the juices, before the days of plastic.
8. Maybe a single piece doesn't have to be turned, but I feel better about turning a two layer piece. It's easy enough, except for the mess.
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Peoii



Joined: 08 Sep 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2005 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If only I lived in a place where getting the salmon was easier! Oh well, time for another crusade in search of great ingrediants. Smile
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baustin
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2005 9:35 pm    Post subject: gravlax Reply with quote

I prepared salmon gravlax from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse, but forgot I had in the the fridge. It's been in the brine at least 3 weeks. I peeled back with wrap and there was a nice, fresh scent of dill. Does anyone know whether this would be safe to eat?

Do I take a chance and a taste, or toss the whole thing out to the raccoons and possums who patrol for scraps?
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hesh83@yahoo.com
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2005 8:40 am    Post subject: cooking Reply with quote

B)
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