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Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook time: 3 days
Serves: 10 or more
Smoky Gravlax Salmon using Sub Rosa Saffron vodka and Lapsang Souchong smoked black tea leaves
- ⅓ cup coarse salt
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 1 Tablespoon freshly cracked white pepper
- 1 x 2 lbs side fillet of salmon, skin on, any pin bones removed, cut into 2 equal pieces
- 2 Tablespoon Lapsang souchong (smoked) black tea (up to almost a cup)
- Sub Rosa Saffron vodka [several Tablespoons worth]
- Make the cure by combining the salt, sugar and pepper in a small bowl. Have the Lapsang souchong tea close at hand.
- Examine the salmon for bones by visual inspection and by running your finger down the length of the fillet. If you find any bones, remove them with needle nose pliers or tweezers. Draping the salmon over an inverted bowl will help force the tips of the bones up, making them easy to grasp and remove.
- Rinse salmon fillets thoroughly under cool running water and pat dry. Set aside.
- Lay out a 2 foot length of plastic wrap and place the 2 pieces of salmon side by side, skin side down.
- Sprinkle the fillets with a little of the Saffron vodka to moisten the fillets.
- Spoon the salt, sugar, and white pepper mixture onto the exposed salmon flesh, making sure to cover as much of the exposed areas. Next, spread a dusting of Lapsang souchong tea evenly over the salmon fillets. Two Tablespoons should be enough, but I’ve seen recipes that use up to a cup of this tea. Press down gently to adhere the cure to the salmon.
- Bring the 2 pieces of salmon together like a sandwich, skin side on the outside, sugar/tea on the inside. Wrap tightly with the plastic wrap. Place packet on another piece of plastic and wrap again.
- Place the packet in a glass baking dish. Some recipes think you should weigh it down with either heavy soup cans or a foil-wrapped brick, to press the ingredients together. Either you have room for this in your refigerator or not.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 days [until slightly translucent, which may easily be an extra day], flipping the salmon package over every 12 to 24 hours and re-weighting. The salmon will shed a lot of liquid which you will use to baste.
- Optional, but helpful is to open the package every 12 – 24 hours and baste, inside and out, with the accumulated juices and see how the cure is going.
- Once the curing period's over (on the third day when the flesh has lost its translucence), unwrap the fish over the sink. Now you can either gently rinse off the surface salt cure and Lapsang souchong tea or simply scrape off the salt and tea mixture leaving just a little of the mixture behind. I don’t mind the loose tea, but too much salt is just that, too much. Pat dry. Re-wrap with clean plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. The gravlax will keep for several days, tightly wrapped in the refrigerator.
- To Serve:
Place fillets skin side down on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut the gravlax. (Filet knives, boning knives, and Japanese sashimi knives work well for this role.) Position the gravlax so you will be cutting from the tail end (the small end) first. The gravlax should be sliced thinly on the bias (at an angle). Each slice should be detached from the skin.
Serve on small slices of bread or with crackers or simply on a small “cup” of butter lettuce leaves. Drizzle a little lemon juice or lime juice over the salmon if you like for some extra zing and flavor dynamics.
Note: If you put the gravlax in the freezer for about 20 minutes before you plan to slice, it will be easier to achieve thin slices.
Note: Personally I prefer a 60/40 sugar to salt mix. Equal amounts of sugar and salt are a little too salty for just about everyone but I see recipes that call for 50/50 or higher salt ratios, all over the ‘Net.
Note: Some recipes are very very light on the salt and sugar cure recommending for every pound of salmon, prepare 2 tablespoons kosher salt, 3 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons ground black pepper. Our recipe calls for quite a bit more sugar, salt and pepper. Basically, mix what you need to completely cover the salmon.
Note: And yes, most recipes call for about a cup or two of chopped or whole dill sandwiched between the two fillets of salmon. That’s the traditional way. I think you will like this smoky tea version.
Note: Many recipes call for the use of bricks or heavy weights to be placed on the salmon package. Some recipes also call for turning the package over every twelve hours to redistribute the juices. The Cooking for Engineers web site thinks both of these steps are unnecessary, that you can achieve perfectly cured gravlax without the weight and without the turning. I like the brick method because it presses everything together and insures great contact of the cure and lapsang souchong tea.
Note: Sub Rosa Saffron vodka is flavored with toasted cumin, coriander, black peppercorns, cayenne pepper, ginger, orange peel and saffron. You can find this vodka here.