I love gravlax. I love its slightly oily sweetness, its silky texture, its gloriously hot pink color. I also love how incredibly easy it is to prepare, and how easily it impresses those to whom you serve it. When you think about it, there is something truly special about any foodstuff cured at home - but making gravlax is a heck of a lot easier than making your own bacon.
See, this is all you have to do. This. Is. It. You take a piece of skin-on salmon fillet, rub it all over with sugar and salt, cover it in some more of the same (plus some peppercorns and dill), and let it sit for a couple days. That. Is. All.
Well, you do have to make the sauce to serve alongside, it's true. Sure, you could serve it plain, or with sour cream, but why? This espresso mustard sauce, adapted from a recipe by Aquavit's chef, Marcus Samuelsson, is so good that you'll want to eat it on everything (It's particularly good on warm potatoes, especially when you add a little dill.).
Oh, and - you still have time to make this for your New Year's Eve cocktail party (or New Year's Day brunch). Just sayin'.
Home-Cured Gravlax with Espresso-Mustard Sauce
Adapted from Marcus Samuelsson
For the gravlax:
2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. kosher salt
2 tbs. cracked peppercorns (black or white)
2 lbs. skin-on salmon fillet, in one or two pieces
1 bunch fresh dill
For the sauce:
2 tbs. Dijon mustard
1 tbs. honey
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbs. instant espresso powder
1 1/2 tbs. white wine vinegar
3/4 c. grapeseed or canola oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To prepare the gravlax:
Combine the sugar, salt and peppercorns in a small bowl. Place the salmon in a shallow, non-reactive (glass or ceramic) dish large enough to hold the fish in one layer. Rub the fish all over with the sugar and salt mixture, then lay flat in the dish. Cover with the rest of the salt and sugar, then top with dill. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a cool place to cure for 6 hours. After 6 hours, place the dish in the refrigerator to cure for another 24-36 hours.
When ready to serve, slice off the skin and thinly slice the fillet across the grain. Serve with crackers or thinly-sliced bread and the espresso-mustard sauce.
To prepare the sauce:
Combine the mustard, honey, sugar, espresso powder and vinegar in the bowl of a blender or mini-prep. With the blender on, add the oil in a thin stream until combined. Mixture should be thick and creamy. (You can also do this with a whisk; use the technique described here for mayonnaise.) Taste and adjust for seasoning. Serve alongside the gravlax.
Serves 6-8 as an appetizer.