Pull the pin bones out of the salmon fillets and prepare a triple-thick layer of aluminum foil about 3 times the width and slightly longer than one of the fillets.
Combine the sugar and salt and spread
Place the second fillet, skin side up, on top of the first and rub it with the rest of the sugar-salt mixture. Fold up the sides of the aluminum foil so the fillets are tightly wrapped and place the packet on a sheet pan or cutting board large enough to hold it. Place another sheet pan or cutting board on top of the packet—again either one should run the length of the packet—and place a couple of cans or heavy-bottomed saucepans on top to gently weight the salmon. Put the whole contraption in the refrigerator for 48 hours. Turn the salmon over every 12 hours, being sure to put back the weights after each turn.
When the curing is done, unwrap the salmon fillets, quickly rinse them on both sides under cold running water, and pat them dry with paper towels. Smear the flesh side of both fillets with chopped dill or tarragon. If you’re using tarragon, rub the leaves with olive oil (this keeps them from blackening) before you chop them. Wrap the fillets in plastic wrap and refrigerate them. They will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. You can also freeze them for up to 3 months by first wrapping them in plastic wrap and then in a double layer of aluminum foil. Serve in thin slices (see box about slicing smoked salmon).
© 2001 James Peterson. All rights reserved.