If you can’t land the business with gravlax, you’re a hopeless case. The silky smooth texture and lush orange pink hue exudes sex. Just look at that glistening flesh. Worse case scenario you can roll around with the leftovers. Best case scenario you invite a leggy blonde Scandinavian and you are home free. Picture her running through wild flower tinged viking meadows, the breaze gently caressing her long locks as she collapses into your arms. That’s the power of this gravlax. And the little glasses of aquavit that you pound back in accompaniment won’t hurt a bit either. This is the stuff she grew up on, her roots. And with the lusty caribbean twist of rum, raw sugar and cardomom, she’ll be making sounds of joy in her native svenska in short order.
3 pounds wild, previously unfrozen salmon. Don’t skimp here, she’s worth it. Buy the good stuff. Make sure it’s fresh and in season where ever it happens to come from.
2 cups sea salt
1 cup turbinado or muscavado sugar
2 Tbs cracked white peppercorns
2 Tbs cracked cardomom
Zest of 1 orange
1 large bunch of dill
1/2 cup dark rum like Saint James or Barbancourt. No Bacardi, Myer’s or other commercial garbage.
You need to begin curing the fish three days prior to your date. The Scandinavian girls know this and it means you care. You’ve not only gone out of your way to prepare a meal fit for a gourmand, but you started three days in advance. That’s big. Clean and debone the fish and pat dry with paper towels. Mix the salt, sugar and white pepper together in a bowl. Place the fish on enough plastic wrap to cover the fish when your done. Starting with the skin side, firmly massage the salt mixture into the fish. She’s getting hot already. Turn the fish over and massage the salt mixture into the flesh side, then pack the remaining on top. Add the crushed cardmom and orange zest. Chop the dill roughly and cover the fish. Now, begin to wrap the fish up and add 1/4 cup rum. Wrap it up tight with the plastic wrap, wrap again in foil and store at room temperature on a sheet pan 4-8 hours. Next, place the bundle of joy in the refridgerator and add a weight on top. You can use an iron skillet or put a plate on top and add a 2lb. freeweight.
After 30 hours remove the fish from the fridge, change the wrappings and add another 1/4 cup of rum. Turn the fish over and replace the weight for another 24 hours. Remove the weight and turn again for the final 24 hours.
At this point your are merely moments away from good lovin’ and you’ve earned it. You could prepare little canapés with the gravlax, but that’s not exactly manly. I would suggest that you cut the fish in half and place one of the halves on a decorative cutting board. Then you can cut thin slices at the table and prepare her a cracker or black bread ficelle with the gravlax and a dollop of creme fraiche. That’s sexy.
You can purchase a container of creme fraiche and add the lemon zest a few hours before you’re ready to serve and store in the fridge. For the acquavit you need to start a little earlier, preferably 6-8 weeks in advance, a minimum of 2.
For the aquavit, buy a good potato vodka like Luksusowa. Forget all those expensive vodkas with the trendy bottles, they all suck. Escpecially Grey Goose, it’s owned by Bacardi. Belvedere is the only one I’ve tried that has been worth it’s hefty price. The easiest way to infuse the vodka is to pour about 1/2 cup or more out of the bottle, insert 4 goodly sized stems of dill, a teaspoon of coriander seed and 1/2 teaspoon of white or green peppercorns. I remove the rind, the pith and cut 2 lemons into sixths or eighths before I add them to the bottle. The rind releases oil and makes for a bitter, unpleasant aquavit. Let this concoction sit at room temperature for the duration of the infusion, then chill before serving.
While you’re enjoying the gravlax, suggest a toast with the aquavit and make sure you refill the glass as soon as she throws it back. A full glass makes for a happy man. For the main course I would suggest one of Marcus Samuelson’s delicious recipes. Maybe the Swedish Meatballs with Spicy Plum Sauce or Warm Kobe Beef with Truffle Tea. although the latter sounds a little gay.
March 26, 2006
Saturday, March 26, alas, our last evening with the 6 burner and I used 5 of them to prepare Ouzo Poached Shrimp and Orzo Pilaf with Feta, Grape Tomatoes and Oil Cured Morrocan Olives. Two weeks flew and it's hard to say goodbye to a sweet rangetop I've grown to know and love. I'll miss you.
Jennifer and I will celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary on August 8th so let me tell you David it's not just any dish that will make Jennifer cry BINGO! The first thing I heard this morning when we awoke from the coma was "Baby, that dinner was good . . ."
We began the evening with a pacitrón. It's all about sweet, tart and salty so we balanced that with extra salty roasted cashews from Trader Joe's. I only note from whence the cashews came due to the fact that it was my first and last time shopping at a concept grocery store. No more pirate themed grocery lists.
Juice of 2 Lemons
6 to 8 Jiggers Frozen Vodka (depending on the size of your glass)
2 Chilled Martini Glasses
Rim the glasses with lemon juice and dip in sugar to coat. In a shaker, pour the lemon juice over ice then add vodka liberally. Shake what your momma gave ya vigorously. Pour into chilled glasses and drop a lemon slice on top. Pucker up.
After the candles were lit and the cocktails were poured, I put the stockpot on the stove. Jennifer sipped her cocktail and plucked cilantro while enjoying South Park season 7 "South Park is Gay". The pantry was looking a bit scant, but I did find a few potatoes, onions and a bulb of garlic which I added to the stockpot with thyme, parsley, a half teaspoon of salt, 10 peppercorns and a couple of laurel leaves.
While the stock was bubbling, I chopped 1/2 an onion for the orzo pilaf, 3 cloves of garlic for the shrimp and shook another pacitrón for myself and the now tipsy and giggling Jennifer. South Park is an amaaaazing aphrodisiac.
Sadly, as I came to the end of my martini glass I suddenly felt elated with the realization that the bottle of 1996 Barbera d' Alba was breathing. I sauteed the onion with olive oil and red pepper flakes, stirred in the orzo, added white wine, reduced, added boiling stock and covered. The aroma of garlic rose from burner 4, the shrimp were tossed to coat and in went the ouzo as flames licked my eyebrows. Jennifer dashed upstairs for the camera and caught the last of them as I turned down the heat to barely a flicker.
I tested the orzo and added another cup of stock. I'm a big fan of al dente but I almost broke a tooth. After another 3 or 4 minutes I stirred in the olives, tomatoes, feta, another 1/2 cup of stock, removed the lid for and let cook for a final 3 minutes while I poured the Barbera.
We ended the last supper with a glass of ouzo and an espresso. David please note the espresso is key as you don't want your date falling asleep while you go for the gold.
This dish was inspired by Gus and Patricia Peterson's love of good food. I mutated this dish from a taverna recipe that was made popular by the influx Italian tourists to the Greek Isles in the 1950s.
March 25, 2006
Daniel, I found this on Amazon. It might make a great belated birthday gift for David.
March 25, 2006
On Sunday March 12, Daniel was kind enough to brave I-95 traffic, drove into the city and carted some of our luggage including the dog's crate back to Larchmont. In return Jennifer and I made dinner. It's a tad drafty at in The Estates so we needed something that would keep us warm. We opted for the Tartiflette.
Ok David, this one is a home run. It's lusty, sensual, fairly easy to make and perfect for those cold Wisconsin winters when you need to get close to stay warm. Even the name sounds sexy. Say it with me in your best French accent, Tahr•tee•flet! This recipe was adapted from Dominique Vial's oral recitation so you know it comes from the source, Savoy.
Start by shaking up the iced vodka with a few tablespoons of olive brine and pouring that lovely concoction into chilled martini glasses. Now, if your date is not a martini drinker you may want to opt for something a bit softer like a Kir Royale (a glass of champagne with a half ounce of chambord) Or, if you're feeling particularly smooth, drop a sugar cube into a champagne saucer, add two drops of Angosturra Bitters, fill the saucer with champagne and you've got yourself an Ellington.
While the young lady is sipping her aperitif, peel and slice 6 potatoes into 1/8 inch rounds. Boil them until soft, not soggy. Sauté 1 onion or several shallots with olive oil, a few pepper flakes and if you eat pork add a half a cup of chopped prosciutto. I can't eat Babe, so I skip that part. When the shallots are glassy, add the parboiled potatoes, stir to coat and cook for a minute or two. Then add 1/2 cup white wine, a sprig of thyme, a few turns of the peppermill and a pinch of salt to taste. If you used Babe, be careful with the salt. Cook this lovely mixture for about 5 mins to reduce. Transfer to a beautiful baking dish (you want this to look nice when you remove it from the oven and place the bubbling dish on the table next to the bottle of Côte du Rhône) and place the 1/2 wheel of Reblochon that you cut earlier rind side up. If the young lady needs more coaxing, you can use the whole wheel of Reblochon scored with a cross on the underside. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 for about 40 minutes or until brown, crisp and bubbly. Serve with a simple green salad dressed with a lemon vinagrette and the aforementioned bottle(s) of wine.
That Sunday night we ate a good portion of the Tartiflette and drank both bottles of wine. We were stuffed! Daniel admitted to eating the remainder of the Tartiflette after Jennifer and I headed back to civilization. He's visibly gained a few pounds since we've been cooking up at The Estates.
For your reference:
After a full week of menus, and a Sunday brunch of Eggs Scandia with Dill Potato Croquettes, we were slightly stuffed so we opted for a light dinner after arising from comas by the fire.
I started by dusting the scallops with spicy Hungarian paprika, sea salt and fresh cracked green peppercorns, then drizzled them with sicilian olive oil. Correction, I started by pouring 3 glasses of the dill, coriander, lemon and white peppercorn aquavit left over from Friday afternoon's gravlax party. More on that later.
The scallops got to know the oil and spices for about an hour while we fired up the grill in the granite top island at the spacious Larchmont Estates. Meanwhile, I cut the rind and pith from 2 blood oranges, sliced the meat from the membrane and squeezed the juice from the remnants. Jennifer made a vinagrette with 1/3 t tarragon mustard, 1 shallot, 1 t redwine vinegar and the blood orange juice. She mixed these ingredients together, added a pinch of sea salt, 2 turns of the peppermill and whisked in 1/4 cup Umbrian olive oil (the really good stuff that you never heat). I grilled the scallops for about 2 minutes per side until they were barely set, tossed the spinach and pinenuts with the vinagrette and Daniel filmed the entire thing with stills (see link below) while I plated the meal and we devoured it with a bottle of Nero D'Avola.
We nibbled a piece of morbier while preparing hungarian crepes stuffed with creme fraiche, bourbon soaked cherries and pistachios. They were delicious warm and I proceeded to finish off the 114.3 proof small batch bourbon that the cherries were soaking in. (David, I would suggest that you cut this in half with sparkling mineral water before you offer this to the young lady. She'll be yours in short order after a few sips of this concoction.)
Notes: The bourbon was complements of one Oonie Chase. The morbier was by Mons from Murray's. The crepe recipe was adapted from Daniel's grandmother and a pocket sized cook book of Hungarian recipes.
March 25, 2006
Our apartment is still covered with the dust and debris of a traumatizing renovation. Our good friend Mr. Neumann was kind enough to let us camp in the master suite of the small manor for which he has been the caretaker for an extended run. We got a working bathroom and Daniel got a personal chef.
We indulged for 2 weeks on tartiflette, fresh pastas, risottos, grilled scallops, roasted hake, runny cheeses, quince paste, buckets full of olives, medjool dates and two 50 gallon recycling containers of fine wine and spirits.
I created this to help Daniel’s brother David become a better cook and hopefully increase his chances with the ladies. Menus and recipes to follow. Good luck David.