When Élie was still teeny, tiny (he isn’t anymore?!) I could barely get any food on the table. He was a constant nurser and I could never figure out the people who admonished new mothers “Are you eating well?”. No, of course not, I have a brand new baby and I haven’t slept in days! I relied heavily on the fantastic French frozen food chain Picard which sells very high quality frozen fruits, vegetables, fish, and meats, but also prepared meals. It made throwing together a fresh dish in the short no-cry periods so much easier with the veg and herbs (yes! fresh herbs!) already chopped, peeled, or blanched and I could always have ingredients on hand.
But some of my old favorites turned out to be adaptable to my new schedule, gravlax being a stand-out. Preparation taking about ten minutes, I could make it at anytime in advance and then, served with roasted potatoes and a green salad for example, we could have a lovely meal that wouldn’t mind waiting on our plates during a walk-the-baby shift. It felt like a little luxury.
Gravlax has long been a favorite of ours anyway. Once you feel comfortable with the original recipe, you can try endless variations. I like to add Clementine zest around Christmastime with white peppercorns. Of course, it’s lovely in the hot summer months with other little bits and pieces to make a cool, informal meal or go classic with capers, red onions, and tomatoes on some fantastic bread. The point is, you need to have this recipe your back pocket and I promise, once you try it and see how easy it really is and how much less expensive then buying premade, you’ll be hooked.
adapted from Chez Panisse Café Cookbook
Once you try this recipe and get it down pat, experiment with different herbs, spices, and other additions like citrus zest, using organic whenever possible. For the two of us, I often buy just a small piece of fish but use the same quantities of the curing mix. I have even used this method with halibut.
up to 1 lb. salmon, skin on and pin bones removed
2 or more juniper berries, crushed (more if you love the flavor)
1/3 c. sea salt
1/3 c. sugar in the raw
1/4 t. ground allspice
1/2 t. pink peppercorns, crushed
1/2 bunch of fresh dill
In a bowl, combine the salt, sugar, and allspice. Line a baking dish large enough for the salmon with a large piece of cheesecloth or plastic wrap to wrap the salmon. Make a bed of half the dill in the bottom of the dish, then distribute half the salt/sugar mixture on top of the dill. Lay your salmon on top. Sprinkle the crushed juniper berries and pink peppercorns over the salmon, then the rest of the salt/sugar mix, and finally the rest of the dill. Making sure that the salt/sugar mix is also covering the sides of the salmon, tightly wrap it with the cheescloth or plastic wrap. Let it cure in the refrigerator at least 36 hours.
Unwrap the salmon and, using a rubber spatula, scrape off the curing mixture, herbs, juniper, and pepper. Transfer to a couple paper towels and gently blot off any excess moisture and salt. Thinly slice the gravlax on an angle and serve.