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Recipe File: Gravlax
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 2:44 pm    Post subject: Another Gravlax option Reply with quote

Gravlax is a favorite in my house. I have played around with the amount of dill and usually go for a bit less, finding the finished product too dilly. The recipes I have encountered do add a couple tablespoons of alchohol.

Just as a note for those that do not like the idea of eating "raw" fish. I have taken a portion of the gravlas and poached it for a few seconds after it has been cured. The taste stays delicate and delicious but the texture is totally different. Though this really diminishes the whole gravlax experience, having both kinds available, it becomes a dish that appeals to all of my guests.
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IronChef Nolo Contendre

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 1:02 am    Post subject: graavlax, lox, cured fish, etc. Reply with quote

Regarding salt - for the salt to do the curing, it has to dissolve in the moisture of the fish. The size of the salt crystals is not a prime consideration, and Kosher salt is not used because it is coarse-grained. Kosher salt is used because it is pure salt, sodium chloride. Table salt contains iodine and "anti-caking" ingredients, both of which contribute an off-taste.

Compare the taste of kosher salt to ordinary table salt. Kosher salt is brighter and cleaner tasting. Taste some sodium iodide. Blechhh!

If a person didn't want to use Kosher salt, they could probably use pickling salt or sea salt - just read the label to make sure the salt does not contain iodine.

We need iodine in our diet, but you may be getting enough from your daily multivitamin or your casual use of table salt on other foods.

Regarding Pastrami-style lox -- Pastrami is beef brisket that is brined (cured, just like our lox) and then seasoned with a generous coating of various herbs and spices (such as garlic, coriander, black pepper, paprika, cloves, allspice, mustard seed, and others). There is no "right way," so experiment! Use the spices you like, and tweak it until you really like the result you get.

"Traditional" graavlax or lox didn't use juniper berries or cilantro, but that doesn't mean you can't try it. Likewise with using a light rubdown with gin or akvavit or tequila or flavored vodka. Maybe a *light* coating of sriracha chile paste would be worthy adventure. My own method would be to use a little of the new flavoring. Flavors are best when they are subtle rather than an axe-handle smash to the face.

Regarding honey -- Why not? (see above.) Honey could be used with sugar or in place of sugar. One great thing about honey is that it is anti-microbial. The taste of a honey lox might be unorthodox, but that doesn't mean it would be bad. Keep in mind that there are also many different kinds of honey with their own characteristic flavors.

Regarding "to smoke or not to smoke"? -- graavlax isn't smoked. Nova Scotia lox is cold-smoked after it is cured. I really like the idea of trying the lapsang suchong tea - it is a tea that is smoked with pine. I get this image of Chinese Tea-Smoked Duck meets graavlax. (I know that for the duck, regular tea leaves are burned for the smoke.)

Regarding other fish to cure -- sardines have been mentioned. Herring and mackerel should also work, as would black cod (Sable). I don't know if tuna would work, but nothing says we can't try it. I would strongly suggest not doing this with Fugu (pufferfish) though.

Bear in mind that cured and pickled foods like graavlax, lutefisk and hakarl, were primarily SURVIVAL FOODS that helped some human tribes make it through a winter when fresher, tastier foods were not available. Our ancestors learned how to fortify the friendly lactobacilli in their gut by making these foods, along with sauerkraut, kim chee, takuan radish and many other fragrant "delicacies." Enjoy them all.

Lastly, there is a GREAT dish called lomi-lomi salmon that is like a lox-ceviche-tomato-onion salad. Oh God, is it good!
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 12:26 am    Post subject: testing for artificially colored salmon Reply with quote

Regarding the comments about the compounds that cause the pink color in salmon-- it is true that they are the same compounds whether natural or artificial. However, the astaxanthin molecule can occur in three different variations (stereoisomers). These variations occur in a very specific ratio in the artificial dye, but vary in nature depending on the source. So if the molecule is tested and the ratio turns out to be the same as the artificially made dye, then it is reasonable to suspect farmed salmon. (This natural ratio vs. artificial ratio method is the similar to the way athletes are tested for artificial testosterone, by the way.)
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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2009 10:50 pm    Post subject: re: Ironchef's post about iodine Reply with quote

the fish you're putting kosher salt on has its own iodine, like all seafood, so if you get enough salmon, you're probably OK on iodine, too.
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PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2009 7:20 pm    Post subject: Gravlax Reply with quote

Can I use frozen salmon without the skin? Does it make any difference? Please advise.
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Dr C

PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2009 9:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article on gravalox.

I find that "docking"(piercing) the flesh side fish with a fork improves penetration

A suggestion that approaches " cold smoking ".... spray on or paint on a light coat of liquid hickory smoke prior to patting on the dry ingrdients. This infuses a light smokey flavor that blends with the classic nova lox.

Another minor hint is to put a pan of salt in your Weber when smoking BBQ and you end up with "smoked salt" that can be used in this recipie or any other where a light smokey flavor would enhance indoor grilling
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2009 10:06 pm    Post subject: Gravlax Reply with quote

The way I've been making lox for years is:

Two pieces of salmon, first piece goes skin down and the second on top of it, skin up. I place very thin slices of lime in between the fillets, along with the dill/parsley/cilantro choice and salt/sugar/white pepper mixture.
I do pour about one shot of flavorless vodka on each fillet, before putting the fillets together. It simply helps with curing. You don't taste any alcohol whatsoever once lox is done.

I put the herbs on the bottom, in the middle and on top. I do place weights on top and I do turn it once or twice, spill the liquid, while at it.

Mine is ready to eat in 36 hours. I think the vodka speeds it up.

P.S. I've also made it successfully with Splenda, with no one noticing any difference!

Hope it helps,

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 3:09 am    Post subject: gravlax Reply with quote

I am making the recipe as your have carefully outlined. My question is this. When I went tot he fish shop they had "steel head trout" which looks identical to salmon. Might I have substituted this and gotten away with it , especially amongst those who have not had the real gravlax before?
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 4:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sandra -

steel head trout - as best I've been able to research - is genetically the same fish as a fresh water trout - but has adapted to a fresh water / sea water life cycle. the other major difference noted is steel head do not die after spawning as salmon. they do return to their headwaters to spawn, but after spawning, return to the sea.

salmon and trout are genetically "kissing cousins" - but you are spot on - the coloration of steel head is very close to the the color of salmon. but one must keep in mind "wild" salmon vs. "farmed" salmon. farmed salmon is usually fed a diet with color agents. those agents are most often "natural" substances - it's essentially like eating a lot of carrots will turn you orange (extreme, but true....)

I've never seen "farmed" steel head on offer - don't know if such a thing as "farmed" steel head even exists. steel head is really a fish eating treat.

I suspect, but have no first hand experience, you could easily interchange the two - salmon & steel head trout - and only the well seasoned palate could distinguish.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 6:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've also bought bright red steelhead trout in stores around spring time. On the packaging it said it was farmed (somewhere in South America, can't remember where). It was of surprisingly high quality, no odor, no slime, very moist, and when cooked it reminded me of sockeye salmon.

I also made both gravlax and sashimi with it, both turned out pretty well.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 12:40 am    Post subject: gravlax Reply with quote

First let me thank those who responded to my post about steel head trout.

I have one question about the gravlax that I made this week following the excellent instruction posted at this site.

I was concerned about something however. The fillet I used was about 30mm at its thickest point. I was a little worried that the "curing" process might not penetrate deeply enough from the fleshy side or effectively enough through the skin side. That is, I wondered if the 'meat' nearest to the skin would still be raw salmon or have been adequately converted into gravlax.

is there a litmus test to know if the process has worked sufficiently? Is there a thickness to which the salmon should be limited.

Thank you for allowing this novice to post the question.
[By the way, it was served at a party a few hours ago and everyone loved it!]
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Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 1194
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

>>limiting thickness

hmmm, emperically I'd guess "no" - unless you making one of the "instant" recipes.

traditionally it's done with the entire side of a salmon - they get pretty big!
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 2:41 am    Post subject: gravlax with fennel Reply with quote

I love this dish and have achieved much success with skin-on sandwich of salmon enclosed with a mixing of salt 2/3 with 1/3 sugar with a generous portion of fine pieces of fennel which grows wild where I live in Berkeley and then more fennel on each side where the skin is. Then I sprinkle more salt outside the fennel before I wrap it so that it is completely surrounded with plenty of salt and fennel to seal the cure. This prevents undue saltiness because the salt-sugar mixed with the fennel is next to the flesh.

Then wrapping with plastic wrap works fine and then into a glass baking oblong. I then take another glass baking oblong of the same dimension and place it upside down on top of everything and weight it with a brick (or once with an antique flat iron) once the weight is in the upper oblong, mash it uniformly to facilitate slicing later on. Refrigerate it. Turn it when ever you think of it and in 2 days it is done. The salty brine mixture facilitates the cure by drawing water out of the fish and the sugar takes the bite of the salt. The only pure salt is outside the skin and intermingled with the fennel while remaining away from the flesh. It gets pretty wetly briny and most of the bacteria have burst their placentas due to the salt induced osmosis and greatly compromised. If you want you can keep it in for another day that is OK too.

Slicing is important and must be as thin as humanly possible and at no more than a 15-20 degree angle so that you can achieve a piece that is razor thin and about 5 inches measured along the backbone. Be deft while separating the slice from the skin because the meat near the skin is more fragile.

A good piece of rough grain bread with a cardiac inducing smor of unsalted fresh butter will produce a delightful sensation you can feel in your ears. The second bite is sheer glutinous excess. It is really not necessary to obsess over keeping it, for it will be gone in short order.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2009 5:55 pm    Post subject: Gravlax Reply with quote

I have tried recipes that contain alcohol and was not impressed with the final product. The recipe I used called for vodka, since I like vodka I thought I would try it in the recipe. It does not work well, I prefer not to use the vodka or any alcohol in the recipe but vodka is great on the the side. Teasing
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 1:23 pm    Post subject: Gravlax Reply with quote

I have been making gravlax for years using the basic principles given here. Some tips:

1. Wash your hands thoroughly, then briefly wash the filet in cool water and pat dry. Next, I wash the filet with brandy or any neutral spirits (skip the dark highly flavored whiskeys) prior to curing. I do this by putting the filet in a large baking pan and pouring the alcohol over it, again, patting it dry before adding the salt and sugar cure.

2. Always use skin on filets to avoid the saltiness..curing both sides is too much!

3. The thin tail end will always be salty. I start serving from the thick end, and usually end up having the salty thin end left over. I use that sauteed for an omelette or scrambled eggs later.

4. I have tried many methods of wrap. The vacuum food saver bag is by far the easiest and most uniform method with consistent results

5. Farm raised slamon is by far oilier than fact I prefer the taste ..the wild salmon tends to get dry during purist here.

6. For winter celebrations I use the straight cure- 48 hours, in summer for barbeques I use only half the cure time, add a liberal dusting of fresh ground black pepper after washing, and then do a flash smoke on a soaked cedar plank on my grill or in my smoker, using hickory dust. I do not allow the fish to "cook". It is wonderful and is always requested when I ask what I can bring to a party.
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