Country #10: Norway

Sunday, March 27, 2011

When you look at the Wikipedia page for “Norwegian cuisine,” the first thing that comes up is salmon. Everyone has heard of Norwegian smoked salmon, and it is now one of Norway’s largest food exports. When I decided to make Norwegian food in an attempt to come to terms with the continuing Boston winter, I wanted to make the most stereotypical Norwegian dish I could! Also, I may or may not have had a craving for lox. (Which, in my defense, is a craving I have almost every hour of every day, except for maybe the half hour just after I have gorged myself on the stuff.)

One thing to note is that this salmon, or gravlax, is cured, not cooked. As I learned in sushi class, one of the most common mistakes that people make when choosing fish to eat that will be uncooked is that they tend to choose the fish that they would eat when cooked - namely, many people would choose wild, unfrozen salmon over farmed, frozen salmon, because it is fresher and more natural. While this may be the case if you are cooking it, it is imperative that you buy either sushi-quality fish from a certified sushi retailer (in Boston, two places I recommend are New Deal Fish Market in East Cambridge and Sea to You Sushi in Brookline Village), OR you can buy commercially frozen, farmed fish from a reputable grocery store (such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s). Freezing fish kills parasites, which is crucial, and although wild salmon is generally preferable, the diet of farmed salmon is controlled, so you know that the fish has not eaten something weird from the wide open ocean.
So without further ado... gravlax!

Gravlax (Norwegian cured salmon)
1 pound salmon (either buy boneless salmon or carefully remove all bones before using)
2 tablespoons kosher/sea salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste -- the more you use, the pepperier it will be)
Large handful of fresh dill

Dill Mustard Sauce
Adapted from several places; I didn’t really measure mine
3ish tablespoons of Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons of oil
1 tablespoon sugar
Chopped fresh dill
Briskly whisk ingredients together and spread on a cracker/crispbread. Top with gravlax and a sprig of dill. Enjoy!

Mix the salt, sugar, and pepper in a bowl, and stir. Place salmon on a large piece of plastic wrap, skin side down, then spoon the salt mixture onto the salmon, covering as much exposed surface as possible.
Put the fresh dill on top of the salmon, again trying to cover it as completely as possible. If the dill pieces are too long, fold them over or cut them off and stack them. Don’t chop up the dill into tiny pieces, because you will take it off later.
Wrap the plastic wrap around the salmon, then take another sheet of plastic wrap and wrap it again. Wrap as tightly as possible into a neat little package! Place this in a baking or casserole dish, and put something heavy on top (I used a stack of about 5 soup bowls). Put the whole rigamarole into the fridge and refrigerate for at least two days, or up to four (I did four days). The longer you refrigerate, the stronger the flavors will be. Every day or so, flip the package over so that the flavors can redistribute.

After the refrigeration, remove the weights, take the package out of the baking dish, and unwrap the gravlax over the sink. Remove the dill and brush off as much of the salt mixture as possible. Rinse off the salmon if you have to, and then dry it with a paper towel.

Using a super sharp knife, slice the gravlax thinly against the grain. Serve in any way you would serve lox -- I first ate it in the traditional Norwegian way, which is on crispbread (I used Trader Joe’s tortilla crackers), with a spread of dill mustard sauce (recipe follows) and a sprig of dill. Later I ate it on a bagel with cream cheese, sliced tomato, and black pepper. The last night I chopped it up and made it into a tomato cream sauce over homemade herbed pasta. (Yum!!)


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