Lox is the bacon of the seafood world. It makes practically any meal better – be it breakfast, lunch or dinner – which is why we love it so. Like pork belly, which had its moment in the early 2000’s when David Chang launched Momofuku and turned pork buns into a cult favorite, lox is in the spotlight now, thanks to the revival of Jewish deli food by way of the Russ & Daughters Cafe expansion. I have a personal fondness for the Russ & Daughters brand (which you can read about here) and know they take serious pride in their house-made products. In their case, the price definitely matches the quality, making their lox a special occasion treat. As for prepackaged supermarket lox? It usually contains red dye #40, an artificial dye that’s suspected of being carcinogenic and is actually banned in many countries.
Thus, I set out with the goal of making my own cured salmon. A quick vocab lesson: lox is typically cured with salt and spices, then smoked. Gravlax is a contribution from Swedish gastronomy, and refers to salmon that is only cured, not smoked. Turns out, making gravlax at home is stupidly easy. Seriously, you don’t even have to be a cook to make it, since it does not involve any cooking. All you do is salt some salmon, pack it into Tupperware, leave it in the fridge for a few days, rinse it off, and bam! – gravlax. The best part is that homemade gravlax is the tastiest cured salmon I’ve ever had – it’s super fresh, not overly salty, and infused with the grassy flavor of dill.
Be sure to buy the freshest salmon you can find, preferably sushi grade (I bought mine at Whole Foods), and ask the seafood counter person to remove all the bones for you. This recipe is adapted from Serious Eats.
- 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt, plus more, divided
- 1 pound skin-on sushi grade salmon filet
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bunch dill
- Fill a medium bowl with cold water and season with a handful of salt. Stir to dissolve. Place salmon into salt bath and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Rinse off salmon and pat dry.
- In a small bowl, stir together sugar, pepper and remaining 2 tablespoons salt.
- To cure salmon, use a lidded container that is large enough to hold the filet. Place half of the dill into the container and place salmon on top skin-side. Season with half of salt mixture, rubbing it in with your fingers. Turn salmon over and season flesh side with remaining salt mixture. Top with remaining dill and close container. Refrigerate for one day, unpack salmon, and turn skin-side up. Re-pack with dill and refrigerate until salmon is sufficiently cured, 1 more day for a lighter cure or 2 more days for a saltier flavor and firmer texture.
- To serve, discard dill and rinse salmon. Pat dry with paper towels. Using a very sharp knife, slice salmon on a bias.
- Gravlax can be kept refrigerated tightly wrapped in plastic for about 5 days after curing.