Gravlaks in Danish and Norwegian or gravad lax in Swedish literally means salmon in a grave. During the Middle Ages, fishermen would salt salmon and let it ferment by burying it in a hole above high-tide line. Today, the salmon cures in the refrigerator over several days, during which the salt and sugar will turn into liquid, creating a brine. Don't let the curing process deter you from trying this recipe. All you need is time: Begin marinating the fish 2 to 3 days before serving.
Makes 20 servings
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 cup sea salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 3-pound side of salmon with skin, pin bones removed
2 cups fresh dill sprigs, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup Akavit or vodka
French loaf bread or brioche
Honey Dill Mustard (recipe below)
Finely grind peppercorns with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. Mix pepper, salt and sugars together in a medium bowl. Rub fish all over with salt mixture.
Line a long baking pan or rimmed tray large enough to hold fish with plastic wrap. Place half the dill sprigs over plastic wrap. Arrange salmon, skin-side down, on dill. Sprinkle Akavit over salmon. Top with remaining dill. Cover with additional plastic wrap, sealing the fish. Place a heavy pan or tray on fish. Weigh pan with cans or bottles. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 days. (The longer it refrigerates, the more pronounced the marinade flavor.)
Remove fish from refrigerator. It will be firm to the touch and juices will have seeped into the pan. Discard plastic wrap. Pour off collected juices and wipe off excess brine and dill. Slice diagonally from one corner of the salmon toward the center of the fillet. Serve on French loaf bread or toasted brioche.
Garnish with fresh dill sprigs and lemon, and serve with Honey Dill Mustard.
Honey Dill Mustard
Makes 1 cup
1/4 cup honey mustard
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup grape seed oil
1/4 cup chopped dill sprigs
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Whisk mustard and vinegar together in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in oil to emulsify. Stir in dill, pepper and salt.