Why do I think of it as a summer dish? Maybe because it’s served cold? Because it’s a make-ahead for the days when you don’t want to waste a drop of sunlight? Because we have house guests in the summer and are always looking for a quick meal?
Here’s the perfect breakfast: a little sliced gravlax on a piece of rye toast with some cream cheese. Never fat-free, of course. Mother didn’t raise a fool. I’d rather have less of the real, rather than more of the fake. The real is so satisfying, so pleasurable. And who doesn’t need more pleasure?
So here’s how it goes. First, make the cure. Whir up 1/4 cup kosher salt, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and some of the feathery, wispy fronds from a fennel bulb in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. You may have to stop the machine occasionally and scrape down the canister to make sure everything goes into a death spiral on the blades. No need, though, to make a puree. Just get everything to a grainy mess.
Put a 2 pound skinless salmon fillet in a large glass or stainless steel baking dish or roasting pan. You might want to run your fingers gently over the fish to feel for any pin bones sticking out of the meat. (But be careful: they can pierce your skin.) If you find them, pull them out with some sterilized tweezers. But you probably had to ask the fishmonger at the market to skin the salmon for you, so ask him or her to check for bones at the same time
Spread the salt cure over the salmon, taking care not to tear or mash the flesh. Seal the baking dish or roasting pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 36 hours or up to 48 hours.
Uncover the dish and rinse the cure off the salmon. Set the fish on your work surface and sprinkle it with dried dill, coating well. (Want to add a little bit of Asian, coat with a mixture of soy sauce, grated ginger & honey and allow to set overnight). Either slice at once to serve or wrap in plastic and keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
To slice the gravlax, use a long, flexible knife to make paper thin cuts. Angle the blade slightly to allow for slightly larger pieces, cutting through the flesh in even, smooth strokes. Serve it on toast, with cream cheese, on crackers with crème fraîche, caviar (if you got the $$$) or in a buttered sandwich with when in season a thinly sliced tomato.