Anyone who’s worked as a server in a restaurant knows how hard it is to handle food you aren’t allowed to eat. So why leave your break-fast preparations to the day of the fast, when you’re likely hungry, preoccupied and, worst of all when it comes to the kitchen, unable to taste what you’re cooking? Enter gravlax. This cured salmon has Scandinavian roots, and is similar to—and often mistaken for—lox and smoked salmon. But the differences are what make it unique: Unlike smoked salmon, gravlax isn’t smoked, and unlike lox, gravlax cures include spices (and oftentimes liquor, though I didn’t include any here). But like those other two cured fish dishes, gravlax can be made well in advance. You can do all the work two or three days ahead, then set aside a few minutes before your company arrives to do the rest.
1 pound skin-on center-cut salmon
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
¾ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup minced dill
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1. In a small bowl, mix together salt, sugar, brown sugar and pepper.
2. In a shallow baking pan, sprinkle some dill and a thin layer of salt-sugar mixture. Place salmon skin-side down in pan.
3. Sprinkle remaining salt-sugar mixture on top of salmon, completely covering it. Pat down with hands. Sprinkle remaining dill over mixture, and lemon juice on top of that.
4. Loosely cover salmon with plastic wrap, then place second baking pan on top of plastic wrap. Weigh down pan with two or three cans. Place in refrigerator for 48 to 72 hours, turning salmon over and replacing the plastic wrap every 12 hours. (The salmon will get firmer the longer it cures.)
5. After salmon has finished curing, remove from baking pan and wipe cure and dill off with paper towels. Remove skin with chef’s knife, slicing parallel to cutting board. Slice into thin strips on a bias. Serve with capers, crème fraiche, lemon wedges and crackers or toast points. Salmon will stay good wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for one week.