welcoming summer with homemade trout gravlax

26 June 2015

Long days and warm nights summon simple and cook-free meals.  During these months I find myself attracted to juicy ripe fruit, salads made with fresh produce and local fish like this cured trout by friend and food stylist extraordinaire, Amy Webster.  Below, Amy shares her take on the traditional gravlax:

Gravlax comes from the words  grav: (pit, hole, grave)  + lax (Swedish, Danish ) or laks (Norwegian), lachs (German), lox (Yiddish)  – all meaning salmon.

Similar in texture to smoked salmon, gravlax is the gentler of the two. Smoked salmon is usually soaked in a salt brine before smoking to prevent moisture loss. The result, while delicious, is a product that is quite strongly flavoured and very salty.

Gravlax, and this recipe in particular, uses very little salt and therefore leaves room for your palate to experience the flavours of the other ingredients you choose to cure it with, in addition to the fish itself.

 In the middle ages, Nordic fishermen would dig a hole in the sand and pack salmon fillets in sea salt, burying them to ensure a (somewhat) sterile curing environment. Presumably, this served the fisherman as a successful way to preserve their catch. It also probably made an easy lunch for long days out on the ocean. The result was a slightly more fermented version of the gravlax we know today. As tastes and technology evolved, Gravlax was enhanced by flavourful herbs such as dill, and the benefit of modern refrigeration.

When researching  recipes, I came across many different opinions and techniques. The basic concept is the curing of fish through the process of osmosis, using a combination of sugar, salt and whatever flavourings you want to add.

If you have more or less fish, adjust the salt and sugar accordingly. This gravlax has a buttery texture and isn’t overly salty as some smoked or salted fish can be. I also like the idea of using local fish. As we all know, farmed salmon is damaging to the ecosystem. Find a fish you like that is caught locally and give this a try!

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Trout Gravlax
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Author:
Serves: 6-10 as an appetizer
Ingredients
  • 1 lb (454g) trout fillet ( or try a different wild caught fish), skin on, pin bones removed
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp organic cane sugar
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • generous amount of freshly ground pepper
  • zest of half a lemon
Instructions
  1. Cut your fillet in half widthwise as best you can, envisioning the ends lining up as evenly as possible when you sandwich them together.
  2. Lay it on a piece of parchment paper large enough to wrap the fillet sandwich like a present.
  3. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the fillet, adding a bit more to the thicker parts and less to the thinner.
  4. Sprinkle the sugar over the fillet in the same manner
  5. Scatter a generous amount of chopped dill, enough to cover the fillet evenly
  6. Add a generous sprinkling of freshly ground pepper ( perhaps 1 tbsp)
  7. Do the same with the lemon zest.
  8. Flip one fillet on top of the other, skin sides out
  9. Wrap the fillet sandwich as tightly as you can with the parchment paper as if you are wrapping a parcel or present
  10. Tie tightly with the twine ( but not so tight that anything moves or squishes)
  11. Adding a couple tight layers of plastic wrap ensures no air will get it but you can skip this step if you like
  12. Place on a clean plate and cure in the fridge for 48 hours.
  13. Flip your parcel over twice a day. Some water may come out onto the plate, don’t worry.
  14. After 48 hours, unwrap your gravlax,slice very thinly on an angle and serve!
Notes
TOOLS:
cutting board
knife
zester
parchment paper
plastic wrap (optional)
twine
measuring spoons

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 all photos: amy webster

I would serve this as an appetizer on grainy crackers or bread with some salty goat cheese and more fresh herbs and pepper. It would also go well in a salad or sandwich.

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