Graavlax with Sweet Mustard Dill Sauce

When I tasted this for the first time, I asked my Canadian sister-in- law Alice where she had bought it, because I thought it was the best “lox” I had ever eaten. When I found out she had made it I immediately asked for the recipe. The mustard dill sauce is a wonderful tangy accompaniment, although I love the pure salmon flavor so much I often eat it plain. After the curing process is complete, all of the seasoning is wiped off, but the flesh absorbs a slight peppery sweetness accented by the dill.

The recipe is utterly simple to make. You just have to remember to turn the seasoned salmon at the beginning and end of each day.

One year I made this graavlax for my New York family’s Thanksgiving. It disappeared from the plate within five minutes of having been set on the coffee table, but afterward I was accused of not doing my part because everyone thought that instead of cooking something from scratch I had “gone out and bought expensive lox.” So if the idea is impressing the relatives—don’t make this recipe.

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Marinating time: at least 3 days up to 4 days ahead
KEEPS: About 10 days refrigerated.
INGREDIENTS MEASURE WEIGHT
volume ounces/pounds grams/kilograms
center-cut King or Norwegian salmon, cut into 2 fillets, boned 3 pounds (boned) 1 kilogram, 361 grams (boned)
sugar ¼ cup 1.75 ounces 50 grams
kosher salt* ¼ cup 2.5 ounces 72 grams
white peppercorns, coarsely cracked 2 tablespoons 0.75 ounce 20 grams
1 bunch fresh dill, stemmed and coarsely chopped 1 loosely packed cup 0.75 ounce 21 grams
Sweet Mustard Dill Sauce
light brown sugar ¼ cup (firmly packed) 2 ounces 54 grams
Dijon mustard ¼ cup 2.5 ounces 72 grams
chopped fresh dill (reserved from salmon) 2 tablespoons 0.25 ounce 7 grams

*If using Morton’s kosher salt or table salt, use 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon.

Reserve 2 tablespoons for the sauce.

Method

Use tweezers or needle nose pliers to remove any small bones from the salmon.

Place one piece of the salmon, skin side down, in a shallow glass, stainless steel, or ceramic container so that it lies perfectly flat. Mix the sugar, salt and peppercorns together. Sprinkle three quarters of the dill and three quarters of the seasoning mixture on the salmon. Cover with the remaining piece of salmon, skin side up, and sprinkle the remaining seasoning mixture and dill over the top. Cover the salmon tightly with plastic wrap (preferably Saran brand) and then with heavy-duty foil and weight with a plate and weights. The more the salmon is compacted, the more velvety the texture of the flesh and the easier it will be to slice. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 days, turning every 12 hours. (Do not pour off the liquid that accumulates.)

Drain the salmon, scrape off the seasoning mixture and pat the salmon dry with paper towels.

To serve, place each piece of salmon skin side down on a cutting board. With a long, thin knife (the ideal knife is hollow ground), slice on the bias as thinly as possible. Freezing the salmon for 10 minutes also helps the slicing process.

Sweet Mustard Dill Sauce

In a small saucepan, place the brown sugar and the Dijon mustard and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce is smooth. Add the 2 tablespoons of reserved dill. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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