Seafood

Homemade Gravlax (Cured Salmon)

Homemade Gravlax (Cured Salmon) from A Thought For Food - www.athoughtforfood.net
Homemade Gravlax (Cured Salmon) from A Thought For Food - www.athoughtforfood.net

I have a deep love for smoked and cured salmon. Well, any fish, really. Salmon, though, is my #1 favorite. WhIle some people put tiny cuts of lox on their bagels, I want a mound on mine. Ideally there's a greater salmon to bagel ratio. If I haven't made myself clear, I can't get enough of the stuff. So, when I first learned of gravlax from my mother-in-law, I knew I needed it in my life. Gravlax is a Nordic recipe that involves curing salmon (or any other fatty fish) in salt, sugar, pepper, and dill.  Once these ingredients have been rubbed all over the fish and arranged so that the two fillets are placed with the flesh sides pressed against each other, the salmon is then wrapped in aluminum foil.  At this point, it is left in the fridge, set in a pan with a weight on top of it, for 48 hours. For a number of years, we made it fairly often. While it's not difficult to prepare, it does take some forethought. To have it on Sunday, I'd have to get everything ready on Friday. 

However,  we recently acquired two Himalayan salt blocks, so I thought I'd give it a try using those. Not only were the results delicious, but the preparation was cleaner and faster (it takes less time to cure... closer to 36 hours). Of course, I don't expect people to have salt blocks, so I've included two recipes below. Enjoy this as an appetizer at Christmas dinner or your New Year's Eve party or for a very special Sunday brunch. 

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Homemade Gravlax (Cured Salmon) from A Thought For Food - www.athoughtforfood.net
Homemade Gravlax (Cured Salmon) from A Thought For Food - www.athoughtforfood.net
Homemade Gravlax (Cured Salmon) from A Thought For Food - www.athoughtforfood.net

HOMEMADE GRAVLAX (Using Salt Block)
Yield: 4-6 servings
Tools: baking pan, aluminum foil, 2 Himalayan salt blocks

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs salmon fillet (skin on)
Large bunch of fresh dill
Lemon (optional)

Directions:
Line a large baking pan with aluminum foil. Place one of the salt blocks on the pan and cover the surface of the salt block with a bunch of dill.

Using a sharp pairing knife, score the skin of the salmon with 3-4 incisions. Lay the salmon fillet on top of the salt block, skin-side down. Cover the flesh of the salmon with more fresh dill and place the second salt block on top. Transfer to the refrigerator. Let cure for 36 hours. 

Before slicing, remove the dill.

Slice thinly and serve with bagels or pumpernickel bread.  It is tasty with either cream cheese or butter.  A nice mustard sauce would work nicely as well.  Or just a couple lemon wedges.



HOMEMADE GRAVLAX (Without Salt Block)
Yield: 4-6 servings
Tools: baking pan, aluminum foil

Ingredients:
2 - 1.5 lb salmon fillets (skin on)
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons white pepper
Large bunch of fresh dill
3 tablespoons gin

Directions:
Mix the salt, sugar, and white pepper in a bowl.  Lay out two sheets of aluminum foil that are 6 inches longer than one of the fish fillets on a roasting pan or another rimmed baking dish that is big enough to hold the fish.  Rub the fish with the salt/sugar mixture on both sides of each of the fillets.

Lay one fillet, skin-side down, into the baking dish.  Cover the flesh side with heaping handfuls of fresh dill.  Drizzle with the gin.  Place the remaining fillet, flesh side down, on top of the other piece of fish.  Fold the ends of the aluminum foil over the fillets so that it completely wraps the fish.  Wrap with another two sheets of foil, so it is tightly packaged up.  Place a weight (I use another heavy, but smaller, baking dish and then fill it with oranges and grapefruits) on top of the fish and let sit in the fridge, flipping every 12 hours, for 48 hours.

Before slicing, remove the dill.

Slice thinly and serve with bagels or pumpernickel bread.  It is tasty with either cream cheese or butter.  A nice mustard sauce would work nicely as well.  Or just a couple lemon wedges.

Salt Cod and Sweet Potato Latkes

Salt Cod and Sweet Potato Latkes - www.athoughtforfood.net
Salt Cod and Sweet Potato Latkes - www.athoughtforfood.net

Originally, these weren't going to be latkes. It was going to be a Spanish tortilla. We had quite a few of them while we were in Madrid a few months ago, and one of the more memorable variations contained salt cod. I made a mental note to recreate it at home. When we returned, I started with regular, plain potatoes, and then moved up to sweet potato. By the time I got to work on one with salt cod, however, I realized that we were quickly approaching Hanukkah and felt that a latke was a more fitting preparation. And that's how I ended up here. I know you're probably thinking: Great story. Move on already, Brian! Just tell us how they turned out. Well, in my humble opinion, I think they're pretty awesome. If you're serving latkes to first-timers or to folks who will freak if they're not traditional, well, then I wouldn't try these out on them. But if you're with some more adventurous folks, then I think they'll be totally into these. 

Salt Cod and Sweet Potato Latkes - www.athoughtforfood.net

Salt Cod and Sweet Potato Latkes
Yield: 24 latkes

Ingredients:
1/2 lb salt cod
1 lb peeled sweet potatoes, coarsely grated
1/2 cup grated white onion
1/3 cup flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Vegetable oil

Crème fraiche, optional
Chopped chive, optional
Lemon wedges, optional

Directions:
Place salt cod a shallow glass baking dish and cover with cold water. Soak the salt cod overnight.

Strain salt cod and place in a pot with fresh water. Set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Strain of water and transfer cod to a bowl. Flake fish with a fork.

In a separate bowl, mix together the grated sweet potato and onion, followed by the egg. Add flour, salt, and pepper and mix to combine. Fold in the salt cod.

Set a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, you can start cooking the latkes. Working in batches, spoon 1/4 cup of the batter into the skillet for each latke. Using a spatula, press down lightly to form a pancake shape. Cook for 2 minutes on each side, until golden-brown.

Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel. Serve with crème fraiche and chopped chive on top and lemon wedges on the side.

Hazelnut-Crusted Salmon with Roasted Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

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Are there things in your pantry you struggle to use up? For me, it's nuts. I'll buy a bag of almonds for a recipe and then neglect them for months. Next to the almonds are five walnuts lingering in a bag . One day I'll get frustrated and either eat them or chuck them in the garbage. I'm not even sure why I initially bought a container of hazelnuts... but they've been hanging in our cabinet for a while.  Occasionally, I'll be looking for something to snack on and will reach for a handful, but it never seems to do much to deplete our supply. I finally decided to take action and, the other day, I ground up the remaining nuts, mixed them with panko and parsley, and spread it on top of some salmon. The whole dinner came together quickly and has an air of elegance (just saying "encrusted salmon" feels sophisticated). You can serve it with any of your favorite vegetables. A lightly-dressed green salad would really round out the meal. For me, I went with what we had in the fridge, some baby potatoes and Brussels sprouts.  

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Hazelnut-Crusted Salmon with Roasted Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

Servings
4 servings

Ingredients
4 skin-on salmon fillets (approximately 6 oz each)
1 lb baby potatoes, cut in half
1 lb Brussels sprouts, cut in half
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
Lemon zest
Salt
Black pepper
Vegetable oil
Olive oil
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Directions
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 8-10 minutes to par cook them (they're done when a knife slides easily into the potato, but there should be some resistance). Strain potato in a colander. 

Preheat oven to 385 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a bowl, toss potatoes and Brussels sprouts with 1-tablespoon olive oil and season generously with salt. Spread them onto the prepared baking sheet in an even layer with the cut sides down. Transfer to the oven and cook for 30 minutes, giving them a stir halfway through to prevent sticking.

Raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees F. 

Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix together chopped hazelnuts, panko, parsley, and 1 ½ teaspoons salt. In another bowl, stir together Dijon mustard and honey. Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Spread Dijon mustard-honey mixture on top of fillets, this will allow the chopped hazelnuts and panko to adhere to the salmon. Spread hazelnuts and panko on top of the mustard.

Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to a large, oven-safe skillet and set over medium-high heat. Once the oil starts to shimmer, carefully place the salmon fillets, skin-side down, into the pan. Cook for 5 minutes and then transfer the pan to the oven. Cook for another 7 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve salmon with lemon wedges, roasted Brussels sprouts and potatoes.