Serves: Makes 16 to 20 servings
- 1 lemon
- 1 cup kosher salt
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground white or black pepper, or a combination
- 1 very fresh whole salmon, about 8 pounds, filleted but not skinned (to yield 2 fillets, 5½ pounds total)
- 3 tablespoons dry gin
- 1 large bunch dill, ends trimmed, leaves and stems chopped coarsely (2½ cups)
Procedures:To make this Scandinavian specialty, you rub raw salmon with salt, dill, and other flavorings and cure it in the fridge. The process takes three days, at which point you’ll have smooth, silky cured salmon, which makes an impressive appetizer served with baguette toasts or black bread and a swirl of crème fraîche. The twist in this recipe is the layer of sliced lemon, which infuses the fish and brings out a light, delicate flavor. This calls for a whole salmon so you can try your hand at filleting, if you want, and it makes enough for a large party, plus leftovers. For smaller gatherings, use one side of salmon, or even a one-pound center-cut fillet; wrap the plastic directly over the salt cure (and use less of it).
- Zest the lemon to yield ½ teaspoon of loosely packed grated zest. Put the zest in a medium bowl. Cut the lemon into ⅛-inch thick slices and reserve. Add the salt, sugar, and pepper to the bowl with the zest. Mix well and set aside.
- Cover a large baking sheet with a few long sheets of plastic wrap, letting the edges hang over the sides. Set the 2 salmon fillets skin side down on the sheet. Sprinkle the salt cure over both fillets and rub it in evenly. Arrange the lemon slices evenly on one side of salmon. Drizzle the gin over the lemon. Distribute the dill on top.
- Put the other fillet on top, flesh side down. Wrap the plastic tightly around the fish, using more plastic if necessary to completely encase it. Set another large baking sheet on top of the salmon and weight it with several small cans of food (or any heavy objects in your refrigerator). Refrigerate for 3 days.
- Pour off the brine that has seeped from the salmon. Unwrap the fish and use your hands to brush off and discard the salt cure, lemon, and most of the dill. Using a salmon slicer or another very sharp, long, narrow knife, cut very thin, almost translucent slices on the diagonal, using long, smooth strokes. If you can see the knife blade through the salmon as you slice, you're doing well. Cover and store leftover gravlax in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.