Homemade Gravlax

I am back and with an amazing post no less.

I thought I would be very European and take the month of August off. Sometimes you just need some time to unwind, recharge and re-focus. I wish I could say I took it off from my real job as well but I will get a real European break in a few weeks – can’t wait!

The hubby thought he would take a little time to unwind, recharge and re-focus too with a guys fishing trip up to Northern British Columbia. So what do you do when you pick your hubby up from airport and he greets you with a smile and a 50lb box of Coho Salmon?

You give him a huge hug and a kiss then you . . .

(1) Clean out your  freezer so it looks like this:

(2) Read through every cook book you have looking for salmon recipes you always wanted to make but never did.

(3) Start finding any reason to entertain.

If there is one thing food wise I miss about the east coast, and probably more specifically NYC/NJ, its bagels. For some reason no one can figure out how to replicate the tri-state area bagel anywhere else in the US. I don’t know if it’s the water or just some secret recipe that no one will share but a bagel should have a slight crunch on the outside and be deliciously chewy on the inside. Anything else is just . . . bread with a hole.

My bagel obsession is that bad that I make sure to leave just enough room in my bags to smuggle back a dozen bagels every time I travel home to NJ to visit. The bagels immediately go in the freezer and then on ration to make sure they last until my next trip to NJ or our next NJ visitor. The hubby was originally skeptic of my bagel snobbery but I can say with 100% confidence that I have converted him as well.

So as we cleaned out our freezer, making space for all this beautiful fish we knew we also needed to keep space for our beloved bagels as well. That left us with two salmon fillets that had to find a use and quickly. Don’t get us wrong the hubby and I enjoy a great piece of Coho salmon but 5lbs worth – that was just aggressive!

So we did what any normal, yuppy, SF couple would do – invite your friends over for your fantasy football draft and rather than serve beer and pizza, put out the most ridiculous spread of fresh, house-cured salmon and accoutrements you can think of (well minus our stash of NJ bagels). We started curing the fish on Tuesday night and by Saturday morning we had homemade gravlax!

I know what you are thinking – this seems (1) totally ridiculous and (2) totally time-consuming. I had the same thoughts and it couldn’t have been easier. All you need is salmon, salt, sugar, white peppercorns, fennel seeds, dill, a few deep dishes, lots of heavy cans and several days to let it prepare. Oh and enough room in your fridge.

The gravlax was a huge hit, the hubby and I won the award for most ridiculous fantasy football draft spread ever, and we are 5 salmon filets down (2 for the gravlax and 3 as party favors). We will totally be making this again. You might want do to the cost analysis on buying pre-made lox / gravlax vs. buying fresh salmon to make it yourself. Typically this would never work out for us.

Homemade Gravlax (adapted from Ina Garten’s Gravlax recipe)

Serves 12

5 lbs of Salmon (we had Coho)

3/4 cup of kosher salt

3/4 cup of sugar

1 large bunch of dill

3 tbsp of whole white peppercorns, crushed

1 1/2 tbsp of whole fennel seeds, crushed

Combine in a bowl salt, sugar, pepper and fennel. Place one half of the salmon (either cut it in have or get to filets that are of equal size) in the bottom of a deep dish. Place the dill on to top of the salmon. Carefully pour the salt / sugar mixture on top of the dill. Place the other piece of salmon on top to create a salmon sandwich of sorts.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap. Place another dish (or combination of dishes on top) and weigh them with heavy cans.  The fish will compress over time so the dishes need to fit inside the larger dish. Place the dish in the refrigerator.

Leave it sit for at least 2 to 3 days, flipping every 12 hours and basting with juices. We let ours sit 3.5 days and it was delish.

When you are ready to serve, scrape the peppercorns, fennel and dill from the salmon. Using a long, thin knife carve the salmon into thin pieces.

Serve with rye bread, pumpernickel bread or bagels. For our spread we also had: swiss cheese, muenster cheese, sliced red onion, sliced tomato, sliced cucumber, chives, capers, cream cheese, mustard and lettuce.

For the mustard – you can either use Dijon or an adapted version of Ina’s mustard sauce recipe:

Whisk together:

1/2 cup of Dijon mustard

2 tsp ground mustard

6 tbsp sugar

1/4 cup of vinegar

Slowly whisk in 1/3 cup of good olive oil. Serve with gravlax.

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Figs with Manchego & Prosciutto

I have eyed them all season but just could not stomach throwing down over $5 for a small pint of figs.

So on Monday in my half asleep stupor as I roamed the produce section at Whole Foods I saw figs had finally dropped below $4 a pint and I swooned. Its amazing what will bring a smile to your face when you have been up since 2:30 am PST, flown across the country, and worked a full day!

What to do with the figs? Roast them? Eat them fresh as is? Add them to a salad?

I vaguely remembered a dish we had in an Italian restaurant that combined roasted figs with manchego cheese and prosciutto. So into the cart all the ingredients went. The vision? Slice the tops off the figs and then cut a “x” into the top, stuff with the manchego, roast in the oven, and then wrap with prosciutto.

Thank you Tyler Florence for confirming that I wasn’t totally off my rocker with my vision and for recommending to wrap the figs in prosciutto before roasting. Genius!

So I followed the advice of the professional and stuffed each black mission fig with a raisin or so size of manchego and wrapped with a half a slice of prosciutto. Then baked them on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes until the prosciutto formed a skin around the outside and the cheese melted. The result – pure deliciousness!

The hubby and I devoured all 8 before we sat down for the first meal cooked in our kitchen in almost 2 weeks!

It so nice being back. I have no idea how all of you consultants do it.