The trouble with cured salmon? We tend to treat it like, well, a treat.
Cured salmon — with all its rich, salty, savory, lusciously fatty goodness — too often is relegated to the breakfast or brunch table, and even then mostly for special occasions. It’s partly a case of association; we think of it as a specialty item not intended for everyday eating. But it’s also a case of cost. Cured (as well as its close cousin, smoked) salmon isn’t cheap.
So we decided to break both those barriers. Let’s start with cost. Gravlax — the Nordic name cured salmon is known by — generally is made by dry-curing fillets of salmon in a blend of sugar, kosher salt, fresh dill and a variety of other seasonings. The process extracts moisture from the flesh of the salmon, producing a smooth, yet meaty texture and a wonderfully salty-sweet flavor.
It’s also ridiculously easy to make. While you pay a premium for ready-to-eat cured salmon, you can make your own for not much more than the cost of the salmon itself. And the only equipment you'll need are a food processor (for making the cure) and a zip-top plastic bag. And obviously you'll want to buy the very best and freshest salmon you can find
Once you have the salmon, it’s as simple as grinding together the curing ingredients, rubbing them on the fish, and refrigerating it. A couple days later, you enjoy cured salmon.
Now let’s talk about that enjoyment. The classic serving suggestion is to accompany thinly sliced cured salmon with rye bread, whole-grain mustard, capers, chopped fresh dill and shaved red onion. But that’s just the start. Cured salmon has all sorts of potential at the dinner table.
Some favorite variations:
PASTA: Toss warm pasta with creme fraiche, thinly sliced scallions, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, a spoonful of drained capers, chopped fresh thyme, black pepper and thinly sliced cured salmon. The residual heat of the pasta will just barely heat the salmon and melt the creme fraiche into a wonderful sauce. To boost the flavor of everything, add just a dash of Sriracha.
CREPES: Savory crepes make “breakfast for dinner” so much better. Fill warm crepes with sour cream, cured salmon, fresh dill and sliced tomatoes.
GRILLED CHEESE: Slap some salmon, roasted red peppers (patted dry) and gouda between thick slices of sourdough bread. Toast until the cheese melts.
PIZZA: Roll out a ball of pizza dough, slather it with olive oil, then toss it on the grill. Grill each side for just a few minutes, or until lightly browned. As soon as the crust is done, top it with arugula, soft goat cheese, cured salmon and copious amounts of black pepper.
HASH: In a large skillet, caramelize a chopped yellow onion and several cloves of garlic in a few tablespoons of butter. Microwave several sweet potatoes until just tender, then peel and cube. Toss the potatoes in with the onions, then add a chopped medium zucchini. Cook until browned and tender. Top with thinly sliced cured salmon and a couple fried eggs.