Beet Cured Gravlax

Over the summer, I had the pleasure and privilege to eat some very good salmon, caught by a fisherman friend of a friend. Following those short-lived, life-changing bites, I've been somewhat depressed about my personal salmon supply. Sometimes, things just don't turn out the way you want them to. As a substitute for my lack of fresh-caught salmon, I started to obsess over the smoked and cured fish counter at LA's Gjusta. At eleven dollars for a quarter pound, though, it won't be long before my Gjusta lox addiction leads me to financial ruin. 

I got the idea to finally make my own lox from that Mary Berry book that Ryan brought me from the UK. Mary says that she makes this around the holidays and freezes it, so she's ready for guests. I'm skeptical about the whole freezing thing, but the salmon does have a very holiday look, and I'm willing to give it a go, since I do love to have gorgeous appetizers on hand just in case someone stops by during the holiday season. It's like keeping a bottle of champagne or cava in the fridge at all times. You should just do it. It feels so good to be ready when something happens. Brother promoted? Cousin pregnant? Of course I have bubbly and appetizers on hand to celebrate! Don't you?

Anyone can make gravlax at home, though some might be intimidated. It's quite easy. The beauty of this particular version is that the beets give the whole thing a sort of garnet-colored tinge that is absolutely stunning. I do object to the name of this dish on one major count: you can't cure something with beets, or even just with salt. The technical meaning of 'cure' is a treatment involving nitrites or nitrates. So, in the technical sense, this gravlax isn't cured. But, in the  more general sense, the idea behind curing is salting for preservation. In that sense, the title fits. 

The best quality fish that you can get is essential for this recipe. Buying fish at Whole Foods is epically disappointing; the quality is always subpar and no one seems to care much about you or your concern for freshness.  So, if you're planning to make this recipe, do your best to find good, fresh fish that's been well-handled and treated with care. If you're in LA, Santa Monica Seafood could be a good option for Westsiders; McCalls is a good option for Eastsiders. The best option of all is Wild Local Seafood. They carry only sustainably caught fish, caught by line-fishing off the Santa Barbara coast. Even at 32$ a pound, you're still saving on buying Gjusta lox (since it's 44$ per pound!) and, if you can afford it, it's the best quality fish in LA, and the most ethically sourced. Unless, of course, you have a fisherman friend. 

Lastly, check if they've removed the pin bones from the salmon. If not, you'll need to run your hands lengthwise along the filet to take the little suckers out. 

Beet Cured Gravlax

Makes about 1 kilo salmon (2.2 pounds)

Adapted from Mary Berry Cooks

Ingredients:

  • 2.2 pound salmon filet, skin on (pin bones removed)
  • 2 tsp powdered wasabi (the original recipe calls for fresh horseradish, 2 tbsp. Use either.)
  • 1 medium-sized raw beet, peeled and grated (200 grams)
  • 75 grams demerara sugar (substitute brown sugar if you don't have it)
  • 75 grams coarse sea salt (don't use a fine salt, it will be too salty)
  • grated zest of one orange
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions: 

  1. Lay the salmon fillet skin-side down and remove any pin bones if you haven't done so already.
  2. Line a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Put the salmon skin-side down on the parchment.
  3. Mix all the other ingredients together and spread over the salmon flesh. Press down firmly to cover the surface. Cover the fish with a fresh piece of parchment. Place another roasting tin or baking sheet on top of the whole thing, and then weigh it down with something heavy from the fridge or freezer. 
  4. Put into the fridge for 24 to 36 hours. Any longer and the fish will be too salty! When ready, remove the parchment, scrape the topping off the top, and carefully drain off all the sticky liquid. Wrap the salmon in a fresh piece of parchment and store in the fridge until ready to serve. 
  5. To freeze: Make sure you wrap the salmon tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap. Freeze for no more than one month.