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Gravlax with Mustard-Dill Sauce and Marinated Cucumber

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

The finished salmon is opaque and slightly sweet, salty, and flavored with dill. The thinly sliced cucumber is softened by its marinade and has a sweet and-sour flavor with hints of lemon, dill, and juniper. Mustard-dill sauce is the classic accompaniment to gravlax, repeating the sweet, spicy, and dill flavors. This recipe uses 1½ pounds of salmon; if you want to double it, the curing process will require 2 to 4 days. The spice mixture is enough to cure one whole side of salmon; use what you need and keep the rest another time.

NotesIf you don’t have a mandoline, cut the cucumber crosswise into thirds before slicing thin.

Order of preparation:

• Prepare the spice mixture.

• Sprinkle the salmon with the spice mixture and refrigerate.

• Marinate the cucumber.

Make-ahead notes:

• The spice mixture without the fresh herbs can be stored in a tightly covered jar at room temperature for up to 1 month. Add the fresh herbs when you are ready to use.

• The salmon, sprinkled with the spice mixture, should be refrigerated for 2 to 3 days. After curing, it may be refrigerated up to 4 days more.

• The cucumber should marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature. After marination, it can be refrigerated up to 1 day.

Makes8 appetizer servings

Cooking Methodcuring

CostModerate

Total Timea day or more

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionBuffet, Cocktail Party

Recipe Courseappetizer, hors d'oeuvre

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, low carb, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Taste and Texturebuttery, herby, rich, salty, savory, spiced, sweet, tangy

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons cracked or coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon crushed, dried juniper berries
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped dill, tops and stems
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro, tops and stems, optional
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fennel greens, tops and stems (optional)
  • 1 (1½-pound) salmon fillet
  • Peel of 2 lemons, cut in approximately ½-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup champagne vinegar
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 long, thin, seedless cucumber, peeled, sliced very thin length wise on a mandoline or with a sharp knife (see Notes)
  • 1 cucumber, cut into 1/8-inch slices and marinated (recipe follows)
  • ½ cup Mustard-Dill Sauce

Instructions

  1. For the gravlax:

  2. Three days before serving, combine the sugar, salt, pepper, juniper berries, and herbs in a small bowl. Place the salmon skin-side down in a pie tin, cover with the lemon peel, and sprinkle evenly with the spice and herb mixture. Cover the salmon completely, so it doesn’t show through the mixture. Rub with the olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and weigh down with another pie tin and a few heavy cans (juice cans are good). Refrigerate and begin to check for doneness after 2 days; allow to cure up to 3 days, When done, the fish will be firmer to the touch and slightly darker than when raw. Pour off excess liquid daily, if necessary.

  3. For the marinated cucumber:

  4. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the vinegar and sugar and heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Pour the cooled mixture over the cucumber slices and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. Drain the cucumber and reserve.

  5. To serve:

  6. Scrape off the cure and cut the salmon on the diagonal in very thin, skinless slices, as you would smoked salmon. Place 3 slices on each chilled plate, along with a small mound of cucumber. Serve the mustard-dill sauce on the side.

  7. Variations:

  8. For salmon, substitute tuna or striped bass.

  9. If you have made Lemon Confit, sprinkle some of the lemon-flavored salt over the salmon.

  10. Serve gravlax:

  11. On a bed of mixed greens; on dark bread or crackers, as a canape; cut into 5- or 6-ounce fillets and grilled, over greens.

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