Call me a purist, but I recoil in horror whenever I’m offered anything to dress an oyster. Few things are so perfect and precious as oysters are and to add anything to a quality oyster is just plain wrong, people. As for mediocre oysters, I say why bother?

It has generally thus been with me and salmon. I know that the world is divided into salmon lovers and salmon haters (well, maybe it’s a bit more complicated than people who love or hate a fish, but humor me for a minute here). I’ve always been a fan of the fish for its sheer ability to transform a bagel from ordinary into a feast. But I’ve always felt that lox has unfairly claimed center stage to its less known, but tastier cousin – gravlax.

Nothing more illustrious than just salt-cured fish, gravlax possesses the kind of pure, clean taste a fresh oyster does. It’s delicate to the palate, unmistakably raw, caressed by a blend of sea salt and dill. Put that on a bagel and you have an exotic, celebratory breakfast. And on poached eggs with hollandaise, it’s simply breathtaking.

And the best part of all – making it is a cinch. A third-grader could do it. Someone who’ve never cooked, never mind never cooked fish could do it. All you need is a little bit of patience, for gravlax is a thing of a few days in the making, and a few ingredients.

I must admit though that while I thought my gravlax was redefining sublime, the BF tried it with trepidation, worrying that the fishy might have gone bad and I was en route to giving us both food poisoning. Thus, after having a few pieces, unable to consume a pound or raw, salt-cured fish, the whole issue was put to rest, and then eventually, to trash. Still, had I been home more to consume food, and not stuck in the office (can you see how I haven’t posted in ages?) eating take-out dinners, this salmon wouldn’t have met its maker via the trash bin route.

1 pound fresh salmon, preferably wild-caught
Kosher salt (I use about 1/2 cup – enough to cover the salmon)
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Cracked peppercorns (I like to use a mix of black, white, and pink)

Pat dry your salmon with paper towels and set aside. In a medium bowl, stir together the salt, dill, zest, and peppercorns. Place the salmon over a large piece of plastic wrap and generously cover it with the curing mixture; use less curing mixture where salmon is thinner and more where it’s thicker. Wrap the fish in the piece of plastic wrap it is sitting on. And wrap it in another piece of plastic, or better yet transfer to a plastic bag. Refrigerate for 2 days. Before slicing and eating, thoroughly brush the salmon free of the curing mix (sometimes I give it a very quick rinse and pat it dry). Slice thinly and serve.

Cured salmon keeps about 1 week.


  • deb

    Alex says this is the way his grandmother used to make it, which I suppose is as big of an approval as one can get from a Russkie. I just, ugh, I’m too ick-ed by fish and suspect I’ll never make it myself. Which is a shame, of course. Gorgeous picture — is that the new lens?

  • radish

    Thanks – well from one Russkie to the other, spasibo! Perhaps some day you’ll become interested in cooking fish. Or not. You make such amazing things – I doubt your cooking skills would suffer. As for the lens, I finally got it this past weekend at J&R – who would have thought this thing would’ve been sold out all throughout the city?? New, better pictures coming as soon as I get my card reader to the BF’s apt or just buy a double for his place.

  • Rachael

    I am unfortunately a little grossed out by raw fish, though I’m trying to work myself up to the flavor (I am a lacto-ovo pescetarian…errr, vegetarian who eats fish). I wish I could bring myself to make this. I get really worried about fish going bad, especially since I never deal with raw meat…

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