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post #1 of 2
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It's been awhile since I've posted a recipe -- as it's been one thing after another and I really haven't had the time or the frame of mind to contribute to Chef Talk in the way I'd like. But sanity seems to have returned so I thought I'd jump back in with something fun and informal.

I made some gravlaks today -- something I do now and then. If you've never done it, it's very easy.

The best salmon to use is the best and freshest salmon you can find. Whole, wild coho is currently going for around $3/lb in the Asian fish mongers of greater Los Angeles. This translates to around $5 dressed out, but you can pay much more and still do better than the cost of good nova lox which is well over $15/lb.

Clean the salmon, scale it, fillet it, trim the fins, and pull all pin bones. If you're not good with butchering fish, you can have your fish monger take it all the way to the pin bones. You can't trust anyone else to do the final check though. The best way is to close your eyes and run your fingers across the fish's flesh using a fairly firm touch. Most people recommend using needle nose pliers or tweezers to remove the bones, but I prefer a knife and fingers. Whatever works best for you. (If you can, do all the filleting yourself. You'll be a little slower than the pros, but you'll do a much cleaner job and leave a smoother surface on the meat.)

Make a mix of Diamond kosher salt, sugar and black pepper in the rough proportions of 6, 4, 1 respectively.

Rinse the salmon and dry it well. Lay the salmon sides out, meat side up, on a sheet or large baking pan. Sprinkle them with sparingly with vodka, then season generously with the salt/sugar/pepper mix. Cover one of the sides with whole sprigs of dill very generously. Then put the other side, skin side down, on top to create a sandwich.

Wrap the salmon tightly in cling wrap, and cover the sandwich with a weighted pan. Refrigerate for 24 hours, open the wrapper; pour off any liquid; turn the sides so they're skin to skin; wrap again; weight and refrigerate for 12 hours. Then open, drain, turn meat to meat, wrap, weight and refrigerate for at least 12 more hours -- but 36 would be better.

Finally, unwrap, wipe the fish well, garnish and slice very thinly as for lox. Slicing this sort of fish is an art in itself and deserves its own post. Maybe someone else who's had some experience with this would like to describe the process. If not, I'll jump back in and do it.

I make a sauce by mixing Mexican sour cream, "crema agria" (which is very much like creme fraiche), with sugar and a little horse radish; then garnish with Chinese chives and capers. But you can serve however you'd serve lox.

Gravlaks freezes fairly well. If you do freeze, slicie first as the flesh will lose structure and become more difficult to slice when defrosted (that's why the "farily" instead of very well).

Wild salmon has better texture than farmed -- which can be a bit mushy. In addition farmed salmon will lose more moisture and color than fresh during the curing process. Different species of salmons have very different tastes, and this is an excellent way to try a few.

Makes a nice gift.

post #2 of 2
I've used a similar recipe from Jaques Pepin that uses brandy. Good, but I bet the vodka will produce a cleaner taste. Thanks!
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