Rum and Raw Sugar Cured Gravlax with Citrus Creme Fraiche and Lemon Dill Aquavit
March 28, 2006
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.