Sunday, November 28, 2010

Salmon Lox - Gravlax

It’s November,we have moved back ashore and we're not fishing, so why am I posting this now? Because I found a well-wrapped package of my lox in the freezer on our last trip to the boat, when I cleaned out the fridge and freezer drawers. Here it is, two and a half months after it’s cure, and the lox is still moist and full of flavor. Just one taste and the lox brought back memories of summer cruising. It even helped to chase away the gloom of a damp Seattle day.

One lazy afternoon at the Baranof Warm Springs dock, a potluck just happened, an impromptu happy hour/dinner . The dinner part was easy, we brought BBQ Salmon and a green salad with walnuts, green grapes and a honey vinaigrette dressing. Our happy hour contribution was a snap too, combining a freshly-baked baguette, a tangy cream cheese spread with “fixins” and a new batch of boat-cured lox. The assembled appetizers flew off the platter, and that’s always satisfying to a cook.

The lox/cream cheese/ capers/ red onion/ dill combination, all layered atop thin slices of bread, has always been a hit with guests on board. No problems with leftovers, ever. 

We love salmon, just-caught wild salmon. Barbecued, smoked, baked with butter and garlic, pan sauteed... the list goes on. While we enjoy these preparations and more, I must say that salmon lox belongs in a favorites category all its own. Lox works for breakfast, lunch, appetizer, dinner or as a snack. Try lox in an omelet or frittata, as a base for Eggs Benedict, on a bagel or blini with cream cheese/red onion/capers, tossed in pasta or even topping a pizza. Okay, maybe not lox for dessert, but it is incredibly versatile. It’s also well-received as a hostess gift or take-home treat for guests. 

Is there one more reason to love lox? Oh yes, it is one easy solution to the too-much-salmon challenge… as long as there is ample refrigerator shelf space available for a multi-day cure. This means we can keep salmon fishing, because the lox disappears quickly.

There are countless lox recipes available, ranging from the simple, few ingredient basic approach to lengthy, involved and fussy chef-linked directives. A YouTube search yielded 69 links to gravlax recipes, again ranging from ordinary folks to well-known chefs and TV luminaries. I favor the basic approach, and year by year have simplified both the ingredient list and the procedure. Why make it difficult? The results remain the same… very tasty.

1+ cup salt
1+ cup sugar
just enough liquid (water or vodka or aquavit) to make a very thick paste

1 bunch dill, stems and all, chopped (or dried dill)
2 equal-sized portions of salmon fillet, pin bones removed
Plastic wrap
a non-reactive dish

Combine the salt and sugar with just enough liquid to moisten, creating a very thick slurry.

Put one of the salmon fillets on a large sheet of plastic wrap, skin side down. Mound half of the sugar/salt mixture on top of the salmon, being sure to cover it completely. Sprinkle liberally with fresh or dried dill.

Repeat for the second piece of fish.

Layer the fillets together, fleshy side to fleshy side (yes, that means skin side out). Wrap up the fish tightly in the plastic wrap. Put it in a deep glass or ceramic dish, just large enough to hold the fish.

Put the fish in the refrigerator. Place a plate or board on top of the plastic-wrapped fish and weight it down.

After 12 hours or so, turn the fish over. Continue to weight it down. You will see a lot of liquid inside the plastic wrap and leaking out into the dish... good, that means it's working. Ignore it unless it threatens to overflow the container. 

Depending on the thickness of the fillets, and your preference for the finished dryness/saltiness of the cure, it will take from 2 to 4 days to finish. Keep it refrigerated the entire time. 

Remove the plastic wrap and rinse off the brine. Dry the fish thoroughly. Use a very sharp knife to slice the fish on the bias, striving for the thinnest slices possible.

Serve with whipped cream cheese, sour cream or crème fraiche, accompanied by capers , dill and thin slices of red onion.  A Scandinavian lemon mustard sauce is another traditional presentation. Serve with bagels, pumpernickel, French bread or sourdough slices. Yum!

Tasting note: the lox was a hit today, topping thin slices of a new variation of my easy French bread. The latest loaf included the minced leaves of three 4-inch sprigs of fresh rosemary, and the scent and taste of this herb brightened the flavor of the bread. Even RL approved.


  1. Oh, that sounds great! I must give this a try!

    Great blog; happy I found you!

    Mary xo
    Delightful Bitefuls

  2. Mary - delighted that you like the post. Let me know how your lox turns out.

  3. I love salmon and this looks delish!

  4. Quay Po Cooks - we love salmon too, for it's flavor and it's versatility as a featured ingredient.


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