I had my first taste of lox when I moved to New York City in 1975. I was cooking for Richard Scheckner and the Performance Group’s production of ‘Mother Courage’, working briefly at the Elephant & Castle as a salad/prep chef, fiddling on the street corners of Greenwich Village (this won out hands down over the Elephant & Castle gig which was an eight hour shift, with an hour of prep and an hour at least of clean up off the clock for a whopping $21.75/shift before taxes). I eventually wound up working on ‘Einstein on the Beach’ with Phil Glass and Robert Wilson.
And eating bagels.
When I first heard about home curing salmon, I immediately gave it a try. It turns out that its dead simple to turn a $12 piece of fresh salmon into something like $50 worth of gravlax. All it takes is a little kosher salt, sugar, some (preferably) fresh herbs of one sort or another, some plastic wrap, and anywhere from 36 hours minimum to 2-3 days.
I have two recipes that I’m going to profile here, by way of giving you a sense of the scope of variations you may find and the corresponding freedom to experiment without catastrophic failure. I’ve done this with tarragon, dill, parsley, citrus zest and dried dill (in winter). It never fails to be absolutely wonderful.
Gravlax: Scandinavian Cured Salmon
- 3 lbs. fresh salmon filets, deboned
- 2 large bunches of fresh dill
- 1/4 c. kosher salt
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1-1/2 lbs. fresh salmon fillets, deboned
- 1-1/2 c. coarsely chopped fresh herbs
- (such as chervil, dill, tarragon, parsley, scallion greens)
- Zest of 1 lime, 1 orange, 1 lemon, finely chopped
- 1 c. kosher salt
- 1/3 c. sugar
- Combine the cure (salt, sugar, herbs, zest, etc.) in a medium sized bowl and mix well.
- Lay a large piece of plastic wrap in a shallow pan, let it lap up over the sides and leave enough to completely cover the fish.
- Use about half the mixture to cover the bottom of plastic lined dish and lay fish on it, skin side down. Cover fish with remaining cure, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 36 hours, or up to 3 days. You can speed up the cure by placing a weight on the wrapped fish, but if you have at least 36 hours, there’s no need.
- Unwrap the salmon, brush off and discard the cure, blot off any excess moisture and refrigerate uncovered for an hour, then either slice thinly on the bias and serve, or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and return to the fridge.