The Norwegians and/or Swedes invented Gravlax, and it is a national dish in both countries. This pickled salmon is an excellent entrée and has in recent years become a necessary part of any cold buffet in Iceland. It is almost always served in the same way: thin slices on toast with mustard-dill sauce.
I’m including two gravlax recipes here, one with MSG and another one without it. I’m also including two recipes for mustard-dill sauce, one simple, the other fancy. The pickle mix can also be used with trout.
The following pickle is enough for two medium salmon fillets (from a 3-4 kg. fish).
4 tbs fine salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp fennel
1 tsp MSG
3 tbs dill (fresh)
Mix all ingredients together. Apply an even layer of the mix to the fish. Wrap each fillet in plastic wrap and then in kitchen foil, skin down. Leave in the refrigerator for 4 days. Remove the gravlax from the packaging and gently scrape off the spice mix. Cut the fish into very thin diagonal slices, across the fillet, and serve on toast with mustard-dill sauce.
You can use the spices from the fish to make the sauce, but I would only do so if it will be eaten right away. If you need to store the sauce for more than a few hours, use fresh dill.
This spice mix is good for two 400 g. fillets of salmon.
6 tbs coarse salt
4 tbs sugar
24 black peppercorns, ground
enough fresh dill to cover the fish
Mix up a batch of the pickle mix without the dill, and divide into two portions. Cover the bottom of a serving dish or other container with dill. Lay a salmon fillet on top, skin down, and cover with one batch of the pickle mix. Put the other half on the other fillet. Cover the first fillet with dill and lay the other fillet on top, skin up, head end to tail end. Cover and weigh down, for example with a heavy cutting board. Keep in the refrigerator for about 48 hours, turning every 12 hours or so. When ready, gently scrape off the pickle mix and pat dry. Will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, or a couple of months in the freezer. Serve as above.
Mustard-dill sauce for Gravlax
This sauce is also good with marinated herring.
Simple gravlax sauce:
250 g mayonnaise
1 tbs mustard
1 tbs honey
1 tsp dill
salt and ground pepper to taste
Mix together mayonnaise, mustard and honey. Add dill, salt and pepper, or pickle mix from the gravlax. If using dried dill, allow the sauce to stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Deluxe gravlax sauce:
2 tbs sweet mustard
1 tbs Hot mustard, Dijon is good
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs vinegar
1 egg yolk (optional – makes the sauce smoother)
salt and white pepper to taste
1/2 cup vegetable oil
fresh dill, chopped, to taste (use plenty)
Mix together mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and egg yolk (if using). Add the oil slowly, while beating constantly. Continue until the sauce is creamy and smooth. Add the dill.
If you don’t like dill, leave it out of the sauce, and scrape it off the fish before eating.
Serving suggestions for Gravlax:
- Traditional: top some toast OR rye/pumpernickel bread with thin slices of gravlax and pour or spread the sauce on top.
- New York-style: spread cream cheese on a fresh bagel and top with gravlax. This is how New Yorkers serve lox (salted salmon), but it’s just as good with gravlax or smoked salmon.
- At a website I visited (sorry, can’t remember which), it was suggested that gravlax be eaten on thin slices of black pumpernickel bread, with lemon and pickled cucumber salad on the side, in addition to the sauce.
- Another site suggested serving it arranged on a slice of toast and topped with spears of asparagus.