Smoked salmon is part of the quintessential New York breakfast. We love fresh nova or “lox” on a bagel with a good schmear and all the fixin’s just as much as the next New Yorker. But the delicacy has become quite a spendy treat, with the best New York appetizing stores charging $40 a pound and up for your average smoked salmon.
Your rewards will be better if you make it at home. You don’t need to smoke your salmon, a perfectly worthy project on its own, but one requiring better ventilation than is available in most New York apartments. Just make graxlax, a close cousin of lox.
Gravlax is salt and sugar cured salmon, with a splash of liquor and a bunch of dill for good measure. It’s delicious, and easy to make. You just need the freshest possible salmon you can find and some time. Two to three days of time. Not to fear, all that time is just waiting while the fish cures in your fridge and you go about your days in anticipation.
Serve with some lemon wedges and crackers or add it to your bagel and schmear.
The recipe below makes at least 12 servings. If you want to make less, just keep the proportions right — twice as much brown sugar as salt — and you’ll be fine.
It’s easiest if you get one large piece of salmon cut into two fillets. But if you have only a bunch of smaller pieces it works just as well — that’s what we used the last time we made it!
- 3-4 pounds of salmon, skin on, bones removed
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 2 cups brown sugar
- ¼ cup (or more) liquor of your choice. I like gin, but brandy, vodka, or aquavit work well too.
- 1 large bunch of fresh dill, chopped roughly
- lemon wedges for garnish (optional)
- Combine the salt, pepper, and sugar and rub the mixture all over both sides of the salmon, pressing it firmly into the salmon flesh. Splash on the gin or other spirit. Place the dill on the skin side of one of the salmon filets and sandwich the two sides together. If you have remaining dill, cover the sandwiched salmon with it. Then wrap tightly with several layers of plastic wrap
- Place the wrapped salmon on a plate then put in the refrigerator. Cover with another plate and something heavy, like some unopened cans or a bottle of maple syrup (what we used).
- Check on the fish every 12 or 24 hours. The salt will cause the fish to release liquid so rotate the fish and baste if one side looks very dry. You may need to rewrap with fresh plastic wrap. Make sure to do so tightly.
- With the salmon flesh looks opaque, usually by the third day, it is done.
- To serve, scrape off any remaining marinate and dill and slice thinly with a very sharp knife on the bias and serve with crackers, on a bagel, with pumpernickel bread, or however you want! Garnish with the sliced lemon wedges.