About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Monday, January 02, 2006
Chef Melissa's New Year Eve's Dinner
I have snuck away from painting, 'cause Chef Melissa is running a "New Year's Recipe & Photo Swap", which to my way of thinking is much better than painting. You can find her in my sidebar as "Cooking Diva". Since I don't own a digital camera, I will try to make your mouth water with my words.

New Year's dinner is all about celebration with friends, reminiscing about the old year and looking forward to the coming year. The natural drink for this occasion is champagne or any good sparkling white wine. Of course we all like to mingle with everyone present, so some of the food needs to be portable and there is no finer combination than champagne served with gravlax of salmon.

Orange salmon eggs hatch in the gravel beds of wild mountain streams from where they migrate to the great rivers, slowly gaining in size until about two years of age, when they head for the ocean feeding grounds. Here they put on condition until they reach sexual maturity. It is this condition the salmon have put on, that enables them to make the perilous trek back to the gravel beds of their birth, for once the fish leave the feeding grounds, they eat no more.

This is what makes salmon so prized to us. The condition is stored as oil in the fishes flesh giving salmon a luxurious mouthfeel, which enables salmon to be prepared in many different ways. However there is one preparation which many people, particularly Scandinavians, believe captures the very essence of salmon and that is gravlax or cured salmon.

What is so good about gravlax is that it is hardly any work. The curing mixture is sandwiched by two pieces of fish and weighted. It is left to cure in the fridge for about two days with the occasional turning. That's all, it then only needs to be sliced and served. But what appears so simple also gives maximum impact. Your friends will love you for it, many of them will mistake it for smoked salmon and will be gobsmacked when you tell them you did it yourself.

Gravlax and champagne was a match designed in heaven. The oiliness combined with saltiness and a hint of dill and spice is the perfect foil for austere champagne. Even though gravlax is not cooked there is nothing fishy about it and no matter how much you choose to cure, it will never be enough, people always ask for more. It is the perfect appetizer and at only the cost of fresh salmon.

Salmon Gravlax

1.5 kg (2.75 lb) fresh salmon
1 bunch of dill
120 g (5 oz) salt
90 g (3.5 oz) sugar
2 tablespoons white or black peppercorns, crushed

Ask your fishmonger for two fillets of salmon from the head end with pin bones removed. Chop the dill and mix with the salt, sugar and peppercorns. Find a container (not metal) that will hold the salmon snugly, if you don't have one, a plate will do. Place one piece of salmon in the container or plate, flesh side up, cover with cure mixture, and place the other piece of salmon, flesh side down, on top. Cover with plastic wrap and weigh down with a couple of full tins or jars. Refrigerate for two and a half days, turning the fish every twelve hours. Take the salmon from the brine and scrape most of the dill off, you can leave it on for a pretty effect, but the peppercorns can be a bit sharp when bitten. Slice the salmon thinly with a sharp flexible knife. To serve, make small points (triangles) of bread, preferably light rye and top with salmon. The points can be garnished with chopped herbs, dill, parsley or chervil would be good, avoid strong herbs. Other garnishes would include a teaspoon of sour cream or horseradish and mustard cream topped with salmon roe. Of course cured salmon can be served absolutely plain.

Horseradish and Mustard Cream

2 teaspoons grated horseradish
2 teaspoons grated onion
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
25 ml (1 fl oz) white wine vinegar
pinch of salt
250 ml (8 fl oz) whipping cream

Whip the cream till stiff, mix all the other ingredients and fold into the cream and chill.
  posted at 11:35 am

At 2:36 pm, Blogger Melissa CookingDiva said...

Delicious, that is the only word to describe it! Thank you, good luck and Happy New Year from Panama :)

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