A lot of the best things you can eat are remarkably simple. Beer, bread, cheese, that perfectly grilled piece of fish. All require few ingredients, a lot of patience, but very little doing in the manner of stirring, whipping, and tenderizing. (Let’s hope no tenderizing…)
But for things that are remarkably simple, yet fantastically delicious, chances are there’s one or two tricks required to yield the perfect result.
With gravlax, there are no tricks, unless of course, you count faith in your refrigerator. But with faith, there really isn’t any trick. Just forget about the piece of fish hopefully not rotting on your bottom shelf, and wait for breakfast a day and a half away.
Smoked salmon, or lox, are undeniably one of the true pleasure of the breakfast/brunch canon. Don’t even try to argue that a lox benedict isn’t the supreme, the queen of all Bennies.
Because you’d be wrong.
Gravlax, or lox’s fresh, slightly more delicate sister, may subvertly challenge lox as the premier bagel topping. (May. I’ll have to do a thorough round of testing before I can present you with any sort of accurate conclusion). Lox really is just gravlax, or cured salmon, that’s been taken a step further down preservative lane and been smoked. Slightly more stable, but a little more work.
Gravlax as it turns out, requires little to no work. If you can successfully wrap something in plastic wrap, you can make gravlax. And in the realm of impressive cooking techniques, whipping out homemade, freshly cured gravlax on a Sunday morning surely ranks.
Gravlax has appeared as an appetizer on the family table before, and it was always very impressive. It is after all, a full filet of fish, ready to be eaten straight from the knife. On a hot New York City night out in a backyard, are you really going to opt for too-ripe creamy cheese over chilled, dill-laced salmon? (Thanks to Irene, and the best Upper West Side backyard.)
No, because you’d be an idiot to. And ten years later, displaced in Miami, a slice of gravlax on homemade sourdough is just as perfect as it sounds.
Even better than perfect, because it’s so goddamn simple.
Recipe on the following page.
Adapted from Mark Bittman and from Grandma’s instructions, passed down through relatives who remember delicious fresh gravlax, and vaguely how to make it. Grandma, in turn, learned how to make Gravlax from a “Finnish friend.” Thankfully, gravlax is a recipe that works with vague-ish instructions.
Makes enough for 4 good breakfasts
1 pound fresh salmon filet, skin on and boned. Look for attractive salmon, without too many veins of fat
Bunch of dill, washed and dried
1 tablespoon peppercorns
⅓ cup sugar
⅓ cup salt
1. Clean and dry salmon. Line a rimmed dish with plastic wrap. Place salmon in the center of the dish.
2. Arrange dill and peppercorns over top of salmon. Mix sugar and salt together in a separate bowl. Cover entire salmon filet with salt and sugar mixture. Wrap tightly in the plastic wrap, using more if necessary to create a tight package.
3. Refrigerate for 24-48 hours, with a heavy pan on top. Or without a pan if you desire. Remove from refrigeator when you are ready to serve. Wash off any herb, spice, sugar, and salt residue, and slice very thinly on the bias off the skin. Works perfectly with any cream cheese, onion, and capers. Also is perfect straight from the fridge. Store, sliced, and covered, for up to three days in the refrigerator, or frozen for up to two weeks. It’s a fresh product, so it will spoil eventually.