I just happened to have freshly cured gravlax on hand when it came time to explore Lasseter Family Winery’s 2014 Enjoué, a delightful rosé, in my Wine of the Week Pairing column. I sliced off a couple of thin pieces of silky salmon, poured a glass of well-chilled wine and let the pairing unfold on my palate. It was an exquisite match, with the layer of black pepper contributed by the essential oil teasing out subtle spice notes in the wine. Should you be tempted to give it a try, you won’t be disappointed. This recipe is adapted from one The Good Cook’s Book of Salt & Pepper ($18.99), just released by Skyhorse Publishing.
Wild Pacific King Gravlax with Absinthe & Black Pepper Oil • serves 8 to 10
Gravlax is traditionally made with two large fillets, pressed together and turned daily. But two full-length fillets make a lot of gravlax and it does work with smaller pieces. Tails, which are thinner than mid-body fillets, cure more quickly and are typically ready in a day or two.
- 1 wild Pacific King salmon fillet, about 1¾ to 2 pounds, skin on, scaled
- Black pepper essential oil
- 2 tablespoons absinthe
- 4 tablespoons kosher salt or other flake salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon coarsely ground white peppercorns
- Sour cream or creme fraiche, minced chives and thin crackers, for serving
- Use needle-nose pliers to gently pull out the salmon’s pin bones, using your fingers to locate the bones.
- Put the salmon, skin-side down, in a glass container in which it can lie flat.
- Using an eyedropper, top the salmon with 3 or 4 droplets of the black pepper oil and then use the tips of your fingers to spread the oil over the fish.
- Slowly pour the absinthe over the fish.
- Put the the salt, sugar and peppercorns into a small bowl mix and sprinkle over the salmon, adding the most where the filet is thickest; use all of the mixture.
- Cover the salmon with a piece of plastic wrap and place a heavy weight on top. Cover the entire dish with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator. After 1 day, remove the salmon from the refrigerator and unwrap it. Spoon the juices over the salmon and then turn it skin-side up. As before, cover it, weight it, cover the dish, and return to the refrigerator. Repeat this daily for up to 4 days for a thicker fillet and 3 days for a thinner one, by which time the flesh of the salmon will glisten. Remove the fish from the brine, wrap it tightly in clean plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
- Kept wrapped tightly in clean wrap, the gravlax will keep for 8 to 10 days.
- To serve the salmon, cut several very thin slices, cutting down to, but not through, the skin. Arrange them on a plate and serve with the sour cream or creme fraiche, minced chives and crackers alongside.