Last week, I received my second shipment of Copper River Salmon from Alaska. This package was filled with King Salmon which is the largest of the five Alaskan Salmon species, famous for its rich red color and high oil content.
The piece I had was huge, and I knew that we were going to a brunch the next day so I decided to make homemade gravlax. Gravlax is a famous Nordic dish that dates back to the Middle Ages when fisherman would bury the salmon in the sand above the high tide line, resembling burying the fish in a grave; where the term gravlax comes from (Grave, Lax).
Nowadays, people leave the sand out of the recipe and bury the salmon in a salt/sugar mixture. As well as curing the salmon, I wanted to impart some additional flavor so I made my dry marinade from sugar/salt, black peppercorns, caraway seeds, dill, and fresh lavender.
As terrifying as curing raw salmon sounds, it’s actually one of the easiest things I’ve ever done.
I plucked the pin bones from the flesh, laid the fish down on a sheet of plastic wrap
and buried it in my mixture. You want to make sure that the entire fish is generously covered including the skin side.
I draped the top with the fresh lavender to impart that unique floral scent that lavender emits.
Back in college, we had a barbecue at my friend’s house on Cape Cod and he just so happens to live on the Cape Cod Lavender Farm. One my favorite food memories was eating lavender smoked salmon in his backyard overlooking the purple waves of lavender blowing in the wind.
It was one of the best combinations I had ever experienced and it was the driving factor behind this dish.
I wrapped the fish up tight with the plastic wrap and placed it on a tray in the fridge to cure. The salt/sugar mixture will draw the moisture from the fish and create a concentrated brine.
Fast forward about 36 hours and I woke up Sunday morning to unwrap my soggy plastic wrap, eager to see how it came out. The lavender, dill and caraway seed aromas were dominant and the flesh was extremely firm.
I gently rinsed the salmon under cold water to remove the brine. I grabbed the sharpest knife I own and sliced the King Salmon ever so thinly. I tasted the first slice and it literally melted on my tongue. Intense salmon flavor infused with herbs and spices floored my palate.
It was like smoked salmon except without the smoke. I made myself a tiny amuse-type plate to taste test before I assembled the large platter for brunch. I layered a few thin slices of the gravlax on top of a square of toasted rye bread, a squirt of Dijon mustard, and sprinkled it with minced shallots, capers, and micro parsley.
Half of a hard boiled egg was added for garnish. Let’s just say, I will 100% be making gravlax again. The payoff of how delicious it tastes to how simple and time consuming it is blew my mind.
I finished slicing the entire piece of fish and got my platter ready for brunch. I iced down a bottle of NV Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose because what’s brunch without bubbles? This is one of my favorite bottles of Champagne. It is ever so faintly pink and has fresh floral aromas and rich black raspberry and toasted raisin bread flavors. It’s bone dry, elegant and fun. It didn’t hurt that it had the name Salmon when I showed up with a platter of Copper River King Gravlax. I’m not sure which Salmon lasted the longest.