Fun stuff for brunch
November 17, 2016
Sometimes you just want something different. Something off the beaten path.
I wanted to try gravlax.
Gravlax, if you have not ever tried it, is sugar-and-salt-and-dill cured salmon, sliced thin and served raw, usually on a dark cocktail bread with some cream cheese, sour cream, or mustard-dill sauce. It also pairs well with eggs, either in a quiche or perhaps as the filling of an omelet or frittatta. And if your knife skills are good enough, you can slice it paper thin and wrap it around some savoury thing like an olive or a piece of cucumber. Or you could go the sweet route and try it with chunks of melon, or dates stuffed with brie.
Gravlax professes to be pretty easy to make, so I tried my hand at it last week. I had a nice frozen wild-caught salmon filet that was crying out to me to do something with it. So I betook myself to the Interwebs, where I found the Serious Eats’ recipe and procedure for curing gravlax.
A word about Serious Eats: It’s a semi-scientific look at cooking, something like Cooks’ Illustrated in that it experiments with different preps and cooking techniques to find the “best” of something, and something like Alton Brown in that it goes into the science of why ingredients do what they do. While I have not always agreed with some of their combinations and/or seasoning combinations, they are a fine reference for technique and answers to “how do I…” questions.
So when I googled “how to make gravlax,” and a Serious Eats page came up, I was confident it would be a good, and relatively easy, or at least well-explained, technique. And it was.
Here’s the recipe. I went pretty much exactly by the recipe, except for using dried dill fronds, as I had no fresh on hand. It goes together easily, and into the fridge it goes.
I’m not certain what impact using a frozen salmon filet had. Here in flyover country, that’s about the only choice I have, as what’s sold as “fresh” seafood often has been flash-frozen, then thawed at the point of sale anyway. I’d dearly love the option of using a fresh salmon filet to try this. It didn’t give off much liquid; I would have expected more.
Should have taken a pic of my brining set-up. Essentially, I put the filets in my 9 x 13 baking dish, coated with the cure, on a bed of dill, and sprinkled dill all over them. Draped plastic wrap over, and set my 7 1/2 x 11 dish on top, filled with three one-pound bags of dry beans to weight it. Into the fridge. When I do it again, I’ll leave it in the cure longer; it had very little taste of any of the spices, including the salt and sugar. I went just one day on one side, turned the filets, and left them for another. Then I let them dry out on a rack in the fridge, for about four hours. I was hustling because I wanted to serve it to the Guinea Pig, who was in residence for the weekend, before he went back home.
We had it sliced, as thin as I could slice it (and boy, do my knives need sharpening!), on silver dollar sized latkes, with some sour cream and some mustard dill sauce. It was quite excellent — much like smoked salmon except, you know, no smoke taste. Texture was great on the thin slices, not so good on the pieces that were thicker.
I had cut the big filet (probably 18 inches long) in half to cure it, and we ate most of one half. I intended to give the other half to the Guinea Pig to take home with him, but I forgot to, so I got it out and wrapped it in plastic wrap and then stashed it in a zip-loc and froze it; we’ll have it Thanksgiving as an appetizer. Must try slicing it while it’s still partially frozen.
As we were having the gravlax and latkes for lunch, I spent a little time thinking about what I wanted with them. Eggs always go well with latkes, but I wasn’t in the notion for scrambled eggs. I thought about how good deviled eggs would taste, and that was exactly what I decided to do. And for once, I nailed them. I generally put the same stuff in my eggs, but occasionally I don’t get the proportions right; this time I did. Of course, I didn’t measure, but here’s a fair estimate:
- 8 eggs, boiled and halved, yolks separated into a bowl
- about 3 tbsp mayo
- about 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- about 3 tbsp sweet pickle relish
- A sprinkle of seasoned salt
Mash up eggs with a fork and stir in other stuff until it’s mostly smooth except for pickle chunks. Fill empty halves, and sprinkle the whole mess with sweet paprika.
Rather than cutting my eggs lengthwise, I cut them at the equator; then I slice a sliver off each end. That way, the halves are stable when they sit on a plate, if you do not possess an egg plate. Lucy gets the slivers, and is happy for them. Also, if you’ll stir your eggs gently a couple of times while the water is coming to a boil, you won’t get whites with a thin side where the yolk has coalesced on one side. Chopsticks make good things to stir with; you just want to move them around a bit.
I may possibly have eaten six egg halves. Maybe seven. Damn, I love me a deviled egg.
I have a bit of sliced gravlax left; I think it’s going in an omelet tomorrow. I might be convinced to share with you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em, should you appear around lunchtime.