We had a gorgeous feast for Christmas dinner. A feast of seven fishes. I was excited to present home cured gravlax during cocktails. Many years ago, before i had cable, I watched a lot of Julia Child on PBS. An episode I distinctly remember is one where she made gravlax with a Seattle chef. I was amazed, but never actually made it. Truthfully, I’m not much a fan of salmon. But this, this gravlax, is something really special. Pure in flavor: sweet, salty, briny, and fresh. My family, never shy to poke fun, was primed to make bait jokes. but They found it difficult to utter much of anything through their stuffed gullets.
this takes several days to cure, plan accordingly
1 1/2 lbs fresh salmon filet (you must use salmon in season)
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vanilla sugar*
1 Tbs grapefruit zest
1 heaping Tbs pink peppercorns
1-2 sprigs thyme
Rinse and dry the salmon filet. Line a casserole dish with plastic wrap, overlapping considerably. Place salmon filet in dish. In a bowl mix together the salt, vanilla sugar, brown sugar, grapefruit zest, peppercorns and thyme. Coat the salmon heavily with the mixture…be generous and make sure the entire surface is covered. Close the salmon in the plastic wrap, making sure it is well covered. Place a board or casserole dish on top of the fish, then use cans or bottles to weigh it down. Place in the refrigerator for 24 hours. After 24 hours, remove the weight, open the plastic wrap; you will see that the sugar and salt are now liquid. Use it to baste the fish. Wrap again in plastic and place the weight back on. Place in the refrigerator for another 24 hours. On day three, repeat the process. On day four, your fish will be cured (if you are using a larger piece of fish, it may well take a bit more time). Your fish should be firm and have become a bit deeper in color. Remove from the cure and gently rinse with very cold water. Dry. Slice off a thin piece and taste. If it is overwhelmingly salty, place cold water in a casserole dish and put the fish in meat side down. Cover and place in refrigerator and let sit for 1 hour. Remove from water and taste again. if the fish is still unbearably salty, soak it again for a maximum of 1 hour.
Serve with blini, creme fraiche and dill or chives
*to make vanilla sugar, whirl 1 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 dried vanilla bean pod in a food processor.