Look on any delicatessen menu and you’ll likely see gravlax listed among the Norwegian smoked salmon and belly lox. But unlike its smokier and fattier cousins, gravlax is made by an entirely different process. Developed by Scandinavian fishermen in the Middle Ages (when refrigeration required a block of ice), gravlax is cured, the salmon packed tightly with sugar, salt, and spices. Back in the day, the fish was actually placed in a hole in the ground for several days before being dug up and eaten (gravlax literally translates into “salmon of the grave”). These days, the fish can be seasoned, weighed down, and placed in the refrigerator until it’s ready to be enjoyed, then sliced as thinly as possible for a delectable hors d’oeuvre or appetizer.
Here are five gravlax recipes to try, from the classic to the contemporary.
Gravlax by Christopher Idone Sugar, salt, black peppercorn, and dill form the foundation of this classic gravlax recipe.
Gravlax with Spicy Mustard Sauce by Dave DeWitt and Nancy Gerlach Serve this gravlax on black bread with the spicy mustard sauce spiked with fresh dill for a traditional Swedish experience.
Gravlax Sashimi by Nigella Lawson Replace the black bread with sushi rice, the dill with wasabi, and add a hint of sake for a Japanese take on gravlax.
Pastrami Salmon by David Burke A spicier gravlax, this version is named after the American delicatessen favorite and is spiced with coriander, parsley, and cayenne pepper.
Soy-Cured Salmon, Asian Pear, and Cilantro Crème Fraîche by Jean-Georges Vongerichten This Asian version of gravlax uses soy sauce to cure the salmon in place of salt, which results in a rich sweet-saltiness in the fish, punctuated by the heat of the ginger and chile.
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