Toss out that cereal – cured salmon is what’s for breakfast
Growing up in a European household meant that breakfasts were non-traditional American fare. We didn’t often have pancakes, waffles or cereals; these were reserved for vacations or a friend’s house. What we did have, though, were cold cuts, open-faced sandwiches and smoked fish. I never thought much of it until I got married.
This is when it became apparent that breakfast at my house was not the norm for everyone. My wife was used to the cereal (in fact, she used to eat it for every meal when I was out of town). She has even gotten me used to these types of meals as well, but that doesn’t mean I have ever lost the desire or taste for those other items. As part of that European breakfast, cured salmon (gravlax) and other smoked fish have always been my favourites. Getting smoked salmon or fish for one person is not easy though. I decided to challenge myself to see if I could cure some fish at home.
What I learned is that curing fish is much simpler than I had imagined, and the basic ingredients were minimal (although I suppose it couldn’t be overly complicated since this has been a way to preserve foods for millennia). In essence, all it takes is a good amount of salt and some sugar: salt draws out moisture and inhibits bacteria from growing (the bad kind, anyways), while sugar is an energy source for good bacterias (microbes); all the other ingredients are there for flavour.
I picked the flavours that I like and items that typically go well with any fish dish, but try out any combination of items that you enjoy together. No flavour will be overly powerful as it has only a day or two to penetrate the meat, and therefore doesn’t go beyond the surface. Don’t be afraid to try bold flavours. Now that I can make my own cured salmon at home, I hope my kids will realize that this is a great breakfast.
salmon gravlax bagel
1 1/2 lbs salmon filet (skin off)
1/4 cup sea salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dill, chopped (2 tbsp reserved for garnish)
Zest from 1 lemon
1 oz tequila
2 poppyseed bagels
1/4 cup European cream cheese
2 tbsp horseradish cream (optional)
Lemon juice, to taste
Place salmon filet in a glass container large enough that it can lay flat. Cover both sides with salt, sugar, dill, lemon zest and tequila. Pat both sides well to press salt and sugar into the fish. Cover and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.
Remove salmon and rinse under cold water to remove excess salt. Pat dry and slice thinly.
Slice the bagels in half (warm up or toast if not fresh). Apply cream cheese and horseradish (if using) evenly to all pieces.
Lay salmon over cream cheese and sprinkle with reserved dill evenly. Drizzle lemon juice over top.