Gravlax (cured raw salmon)

I believe this dish is Swedish in origin, certainly Scandinavian. It is similar in some ways to traditional lox (cold smoked salmon) except that is it just cured, not smoked. Most recipes I have seen call for curing a whole fish, or at least a whole fillet, a process that takes several days. You then slice it thinly for serving. Excellent, but this recipe starts with thin pieces of fish and requires only about half a day of cure – a real bonus when you are pressed for time. I am not sure this is truly traditional as I do not see olives and olive oil being common in Sweden hundreds of years ago! One piece of this makes a nice appetizer, two make a light main course. Buttered toast is traditionally served with this, but rye bread, crackers, etc. can all be used.


One half-pound salmon fillet of highest quality
2 tsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 TB finely chopped shallots
2 TB chopped oil-cured black olives
2 TB best olive oil
1 TB chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
1 TB lemon juice

Carefully remove the skin, bones, and sinews from the salmon. Cut into 4 equal pieces. Put a piece between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and gently pound with a meat tenderizer or heavy jar until quite thin, 1/8 inch or less – this fish will actually be translucent. Set aside, still in the plastic wrap. Repeat with the other pieces of fish.

Set out 4 small or 2 large plates depending on how you plan to serve the gravlax.

Remove the top piece of plastic wrap from the pounded fish (the fish will be sort of fragile, so be careful). Mix the salt and pepper together and sprinkle half of it evenly over the fish (all 4 pieces). Invert the fish onto the plates, salted side down, and peel off the remaining plastic wrap. Sprinkle the rest of the salt and pepper over, Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

Prepare the remaining ingredients, running the shallots under hot tap water for a moment to remove some of the harsh taste.

Half an hour before serving, take fish out of the fridge (tastes better if not icy-cold), remove the wrap, and sprinkle the olives, shallots, oil, and parsley over. Don’t add the lemon juice now or the acid will “cook” the fish and make it opaque (this is the principle behind ceviche, the South American dish of raw seafood that is “cooked” with an acid marinade). Just before serving, add the lemon juice (or pass lemon wedges at the table).

Note: Never throw away raw salmon skin! Brush lightly with soy or teriyaki sauce and broil quickly until a bit crisp for a lovely treat.

Explore posts in the same categories: Ethnic, Seafood, Starters

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