Salt and Time Are The Keys to Lox
Start your own gravlax on Monday and enjoy it next weekend
Yes, it’s Memorial Day Weekend, and you may very well be in the midst of preparing your grill and assembling any number of barbecue-friendly salads, redolent in mayo. I’ll be doing the same and by no means wish to take away from incipient summertime festivities. However, if you’ll allow me to move the goalposts a bit, there’s a great breakfast awaiting you next weekend, so long as you manage to procure a nice slab of fish on (what is hopefully) your Memorial Day off. A long weekend is a great time for a project, and homemade gravlax is definitely worth your time.
I’ve developed a habit of making gravlax a few times a month, always using the leftovers of whatever piece of Arctic char or sea trout I buy for dinner on Sunday, and it’s dependably great. Lox may be a weekend morning luxury, commanding increasingly high prices even here in the deli capital of the world, but it’s very easy to do at home. All you need is a fatty pink filet of fish — salmon or Arctic char, though I usually choose the latter since it’s cheaper and leaner — as well as salt, sugar, some dill and spices, and about four days.
Once you’ve rubbed your fish down with its cure, you’ll let it sit under something heavy in the fridge and periodically baste it each day, spooning the salt-borne juices over the filet to give it the leathery sheen that lox is known for. If you do this on Monday night, you’ll have a properly cured slab by Saturday morning, which you can then slice very thinly and drape over a bagel (or my preference, a bialy) with some capers and red onion.
Technically, gravlax is cured and ready to eat within 24 hours, but I much prefer giving it about four days of time for it to get very intensely salted and almost candied in texture. However, you can test it out throughout the week and start slicing whenever the flavor and consistency suits you. When you do eat it, it won’t be smoked salmon — don’t expect any hickory notes here — but it will hopefully taste a bit fresher, a bit dill-ier, and a bit fishier, in a good way.
Gravlax is great with some avocado, a simple watercress salad, or cucumbers with dill and yogurt, the recipe for which is included here.
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