This is my recipe for Gravlax (cured salmon). It makes a great appetizer. The only downside is that you must prepare it in advance, since it needs to cure 36 to 48 hours in the fridge.
The following quantities will easily feed 15 persons if the salmon is the main appetizer (and you will probably have some leftovers, but that’s OK because you can keep the salmon a few days in the fridge without any problem, since it will be cured). Don’t hesitate to scale down the recipe if you have less people!
- 4 pounds of salmon (either filets with the skin, or a slice of the whole fish, cut “en portefeuille”)
- 5 ounces of sugar
- 5 ounces of salt
- some fresh dill
- pepper (if you can grind some Sichuan pepper, go for it!)
- 1 pound of “fromage blanc” (in the US, it’s generally sold as “greek yogurt”)
- 2 big lemons
- some olive oil
Finely chop the dill. If you don’t have specialized equipment, you can use kitchen scissors. Better remove the stems, at least the bigger ones; it’s not mandatory but it will be more pleasant (and the taste is in the leaves and smaller stems anyway).
If you see some fishbones poking out of the salmon, remove them now.
In a bowl, mix the sugar, salt, one small teaspoon of ground pepper, and half of the dill.
Smear the mix evenly on the salmon flesh.
Now press the filets against each other, flesh against flesh.
Put the salmon in a dish with a relatively high edge (maybe 2 inches), because the fish is going to let out a lot of liquid.
Put a weight on the fish, so that the filets are tightly pressed against each other. I typically put a cutting board (smaller than the dish), and let one or two packs of beer rest on the board.
Put the dish in the fridge. Flip it every 12 hours. Leave at least 36 hours total (48 hours is even better).
When you will remove the fish from the fridge, you should see a lot of fishy water in the dish. Drain it. Then rince the salmon profusely, to remove the sugar and salt mix. There will probably be some bits of dill incrusted within the fish; that’s OK.
Dice the salmon. I typically make cubes about the size of those appetizer cheese cubes, but you can also make thin slices.
To dice the fish, I use a very sharp, toothless knife. I cut thin strips (half an inch wide, 2 to 4 inches long), with the skin; then I slice the strip in the middle, and make the blade slide between the skin and the flesh.
Now, wash your hands 3 times, because after cutting the fish, they probably stink :-D
Let’s prepare the sauce. Mix the greek yogurt, the juice of the two lemons, one tablespoon of olive oil, and the other half of the dill. Add a bit of salt and pepper according to your taste.
Note: a few hours after cutting it, the salmon will taste very salty, but with the sauce, it should be just perfect. In my experience, after a day or so, it doesn’t taste that salty, and can be enjoyed without the sauce. I don’t know if the taste of salt really goes away, or if me tastebuds get accustomed.
I generally split the salmon in multiple bowls, paired with smaller bowls containing the sauce. Unless your guests enjoy the smell of fish on their fingers, you probably want to consider providing picks (wooden toothpicks work just fine) :-)