Gravlox is an ancient Nordic technique for preserving salmon by curing the fish with salt, sugar and dill. This Southwestern gravlox recipe puts a new spin on this old method by substituting fresh cilantro, cumin seeds and chile pepper for the dill and adding a bit of lime and tequila. Southwestern gravlox makes a great appetizer or garnish and can be used in place of the more traditional gravlox or smoked salmon.
Please try to use only wild salmon for this recipe. Wild salmon filets are thinner, firmer and more flavorful than farm-raised salmon. Wild salmon filets will cure more quickly and evenly and make a superior cured salmon. I prefer portions near the tail of the fish, where the thickness of the filet varies most, to get a variety of “doneness” in the gravlox.
Start this recipe by selecting the best and freshest skin-on wild salmon filet you can find. This recipe works best for portions that are at least 1/2 pound and can be used for entire sides of fish. The cure will take longer for larger and/or thicker salmon filets.
Once you have the fish, it is time to make the “cure”. The amount needed will vary with the size of the fish portion used. This recipe used 1 1/4 pound of salmon and the cure was based on 1/2 cup each of sea salt and organic brown sugar. 1 1/2 tablespoons of whole cumin seeds and one fresh hot red chile pepper(sliced very thinly) are added to the salt and sugar and mixed together.
Zest one lime. I like to use a microplane for zesting. Then cut the lime in half and set the lime and zest aside.
Wash and dry about a cup of lightly packed fresh cilantro. Stems are fine.
Carefully lay flat a piece of plastic wrap large enough to completely surround the fish to be cured. Sprinkle “cure” liberally and evenly over an area slightly larger than the fish. Evenly sprinkle lime zest over the cure. Add a layer of fresh cilantro.
Place the salmon filet, skin side down, onto the cure and cilantro. Reverse the process for the top of the fish: a layer of cilantro, then zest, then a liberal layer of cure. Squeeze the juice from half of the lime and lightly sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of lime juice evenly over the salmon.
Sprinkle the fish evenly with 2 tablespoons of good quality tequila.
Wrap the fish tightly. Try to get as much air out as possible and ensure that the cure is in contact with every surface of the salmon.
Place the wrapped salmon into lipped pan to contain any leakage during the curing period. The dry cure will draw liquid from the fish and become quite runny.
Weight the curing salmon with about a pound to ensure continued contact of the cure with the fish. Place in the refrigerator.
Gravlox should be firm but not hard and should rebound slightly from a finger poke. Check the fish after two full days by unwrapping carefully so as not to disturb the cure. Press with a finger to assess. Obvious remaining softness in the middle and no rebound means more time is needed. Curing longer than necessary will result in overly salty tasting gravlox.
When the gravlox is fully cured, remove from the plastic wrap and scrape off as much cure as possible. Rinse both side of the fish well under cold running water. Pat dry with towels. The Southwestern gravlox is ready to eat. Wrapped tightly in plastic, it should keep for at least two weeks refrigerated.
To serve, slice as thinly as possible.
Southwestern gravlox is an easy and delicious recipe that takes just a few days. It is much cheaper to make from raw salmon than to purchase ready-to-eat gravlox and you can get the exact flavor you like best.
Suggestions for using Southwestern gravlox: in an omelet or fritatta with asparagus and brie cheese, serve with mustard and sour cream on a cheese plate with crackers and bread, float some gravlox on top of tomato or mushroom bisque as a garnish, makes a great holiday gift!