Monday, December 2, 2013

The best gravlax I ever had ( and made)

I am sure somewhere in Florida right now, this picture would be a very common site, but this is New Jersey, and it is almost winter and this is not the tropics…it is a crazy orange lime tree that is wintering in my bathtub…  My citrus growing track record is by no means stellar, I am currently on my fourth lemon tree, which has been either blooming or dying for the last two years only teasing me with a crop.  Every time the damn thing blooms and little tiny lemons appear by the dozens and I get all exited, it gets sick, shedding all the fruit until I can get it healthy again to bloom, than the whole cycle begins again.  I have lives of countless mandarin trees on my conscience as well, so when I dragged home another citrus this past spring, my husband was very skeptical.  This little crazy tree is actually an orange-lime tree, which produces tiny round fruit, with bright orange skin and interior, this skin that smells like orange, juice that smells like oranges but the taste is purely lime.  Each little pod can give us much as ¼ cup of juice, I am not kidding, these things are bursting….and I have a gazillion of them.
As I was looking for a good gravlax recipe to make for Thanksgiving, I came across this article and it gave me a great starting point for my gravlax recipe, it also gave me an idea how I can use up some of my orange limes.  I changed the original recipe quite a bit but never the less have to give the guy credit for a wonderful idea. 
Gravlax is a Scandinavian recipe, and in the old times, pieces of fish would be buried in the sands of the shore, where they would naturally be cured by sea salt remaining in the sand.  Modern gravlax recipes calls for salt, sugar and dill and although I made gravlax countless times before I never got the proportions quite right.  Also, the idea of introducing citrus into a gravlax recipe never crossed my mind, after all where have you seen a lime tree on the shores of North Sea?
This particular recipe is the best gravlax I ever made or had, anywhere, ever… it was absolutely perfect and I will never make it any other way again.
A few notes…if you are not lucky enough to have orange limes growing in your bathtub like I do, just use a combination of navel oranges and limes (proportions below).  Also, this fish needs to be eaten in 3-4 days as it will spoil more quickly than any other cured by more salt.   Honestly, I don’t think this would be a problem; a real issue is not to eat the whole thing while you are cutting it.
The recipe is for 2 equal salmon filets totaling 2.5 lbs.  If you have less or more fish you need to re-calculate the recipe using a “by ounce” method (figure out how much salt and sugar is needed per ounce than multiplying by the amount of ounces you have).  The filets have to be equal size so they would “Sandwich” perfectly.
The recipe is also using more sugar than salt, don’t worry, your fish will not come out sweet.
2 Salmon filets 1.25 lbs each, skin on
4 tbs granulated sugar
2tbs + 1 tsp kosher salt
A large bunch of dill coarsely chopped
5 orange limes or ½ of regular lime + ¼ of nave orange chopped as fine as you can
Mix the sugar and salt, divide by half and season each filet evenly, do not rub the mixture in.  Top one of the filets with half of the chopped dill.  Place all the limes and oranges on top of the dill and cover with all the remaining dill (having the citrus insulated from the fish by the herbs will prevent the fish from being “burned” with the citrus acid). 
Place the second seasoned filet salted side down onto the dill.  You now have a little gravlax sandwich of two filets skin side out.  Wrap the fish sandwich in generous amount of plastic very tightly. 
 When you are done wrapping, wrap it again as it will leak no matter what, but you want the wrapping to be very tight.  Now it will go in the fridge for anywhere between 42 – 56 hrs.  Anything before 42 and your cure will not be complete, anything over the 56 and it will over cure…   You want to place it on a plate or inside a plastic container as no matter how well you wrapped it, it will leak.  You also need to flip it every 8 or 10 hrs, I usually do one flip in the early morning, one in the late afternoon and one right before bed. 
After at least 42 hrs, unwrap the fish.  Quickly wash off the lime, dill and reaming salt mixture with cold water.  Pat dry with pepper towel and slice thinly until only the skin remains.  Try not to eat the whole thing while slicing, it can be very tempting.
You can eat the gravalx on its own, serve with bagels and cream cheese or as I did with little pumpernickel bread and watercress, capers cream ( a bunch of watercress, 1 tbs of capers and ¾ cup of crème fraiche blended together until smooth).

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