Gravlax with Mustard Sauce
Serves 10 to 12 as an appetizer, more as part of a buffet
Gravlax, salmon cured to a velvety, silky-smooth texture in a sugar-salt-dill mixture, is one of the great traditional Scandinavian dishes. An essential part of any smorgasbord table, it also makes an elegant appetizer for a dinner party, perhaps a New Year’s Eve celebration. Although it is a special- occasion dish, it is simple to prepare. I like to start the cure at room temperature, so that the sugar and salt slowly dissolve, penetrating the flesh of the fish, then finish with a longer stint in the refrigerator. (The word gravlax comes from gravad lax, literally, “buried salmon,” because in the days before refrigeration, the salmon was buried in the ground to keep it cold as it cured.) As gravlax has become popular in the United States, chefs have experimented with all sorts of cures—using tequila and cilantro, for example, or gin and juniper berries. But of all the fresh herbs used in Sweden, dill is the most popular, particularly in fish preparations, and I offer the classic version here, with the traditional mustard-dill sauce as an accompaniment. I do add a little coffee to the sauce to give it a touch of earthiness.
On a smorgasbord table, present the cured fish whole, with a sharp slicing knife so guests can serve themselves. If you’re not sure about your guests’ knife skills, slice the gravlax and arrange the paper-thin slices on a platter, with the mustard sauce alongside.
FOR THE GRAVLAX 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup kosher salt 2 tablespoons cracked white peppercorns 2 1/2–3 pounds skin-on salmon fillet, in one piece, any pin bones removed 2–3 large bunches fresh dill, coarsely chopped (including stems)
FOR THE MUSTARD SAUCE 2 tablespoons honey mustard 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 2 teaspoons sugar 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 1 tablespoon cold strong coffee Pinch of salt Pinch of freshly ground black pepper 3/4 cup grapeseed oil or canola oil 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill Thin slices Potato Mustard Bread (page 204) or whole-grain bread
1. PREPARE THE GRAVLAX: Combine the sugar, salt, and peppercorns in a small bowl and mix well. Place the salmon in a shallow dish and rub a handful of the salt mixture into both sides of the fish. Sprinkle the salmon with the remaining mixture and cover with the dill. Cover the dish and let stand for 6 hours in a cool spot.
2. Transfer the salmon to the refrigerator and let cure for 36 hours.
3. UP TO 1 DAY AHEAD, PREPARE THE MUSTARD SAUCE: Combine both mustards, the sugar, vinegar, coffee, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, blending until the sauce is thick and creamy. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the dill. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight, to allow the flavors to marry.
4. Scrape the seasonings off the gravlax. Slice the gravlax on the bias into thin slices, or leave whole so your guests can slice it themselves. Serve with the mustard sauce and bread.
Buy only the freshest salmon for gravlax; ask the fish market for sushi-quality fish. If wild salmon from the Pacific Northwest or Alaska is in season, so much the better; wild salmon has more flavor and a better texture than the farm-raised fish. There are several different varieties of salmon, most of which are in season in the late spring or in the summer. Look for wild salmon at good fish markets.
Gravlax will keep in the refrigerator, well wrapped, for at least 7 days. Leftovers can also be frozen, wrapped in plastic and then in foil, for up to 2 months.
Be sure to save the salmon skin to make Crispy Salmon Skin (page 20). If you serve only part of the salmon, cut off the exposed skin and reserve it. When you are ready to serve the remainder of the gravlax, crisp the skin as directed in the recipe, then break it up and use it as a garnish for the fish.
Warm Beef Carpaccio in Mushroom Tea
The idea for this dish came from a trip to Japan, where I saw people eating Kobe beef sushi or sukiyaki; for both these dishes, the meat was sliced extremely thin and then eaten raw, as sushi, or rare, as sukiyaki. For this “carpaccio,” the beef is sliced very thin and pounded even thinner, then rolled up around a garlicky taro root–potato mash. It’s served in shallow soup plates, two or three rolls per person, and the meat is cooked only by the hot broth that is poured over it, leaving it very rare.
Kobe, the famous Japanese beef, has an amazing texture and flavor, and we use it at Aquavit for this dish. Unfortunately, it is expensive and difficult to find, so we call for regular beef tenderloin in this recipe; flavorful boneless rib-eye steak would also work well.
1 10-ounce center-cut beef tenderloin roast
FOR THE FILLING 2 tablespoons olive oil 4 shallots, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, finnnnnely chopped 2 cups peeled and diced fingerling or Yukon Gold potatoes 1 cup peeled and diced taro root (see Pantry, page 284) 2 cups Chicken Stock (page 263) 2 cups heavy cream 2 cups milk 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks 2 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves only 1 teaspoon truffle peelings (see Sources, page 290; optional) 1 teaspoon truffle oil (see Sources, page 290; optional) Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE GARNISH Juice of 1 lemon 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 teaspoon truffle oil (optional) 1 tablespoon grated fresh horseradish (see Pantry, page 281) Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 shallots, thinly sliced 2 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced Mushroom Consommé (page 92)
1. Wrap the meat in plastic wrap and freeze for about 30 minutes, or until partially frozen (this will make the meat easier to slice).
2. Using a very sharp knife, cut the beef into 12 thin slices. Pound each slice between two sheets of plastic wrap until very thin. Transfer the beef to a plate, cover, and refrigerate.
3. PREPARE THE FILLING: Heat the oil in a large deep skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for about 1 minute, just until lightly softened. Add the potatoes and taro and sauté until lightly golden brown. Add the stock, cream, and milk, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and boil gently, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes and taro are very soft.
4. MEANWHILE, PREPARE THE GARNISH: In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, truffle oil (if using), horseradish, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the shallots and mushrooms, toss well, and set aside.
5. Drain the potatoes and taro, reserving the cooking liquid, and return them to the pan. Add the butter, thyme, truffle peelings and oil (if using), and about half the reserved cooking liquid. Mash the potatoes and taro with a fork, adding additional cooking liquid as necessary until the potatoes are the consistency you like. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Heat the consommé in a saucepan over medium heat until hot.
7. Meanwhile, lay out the slices of beef on a work surface, with a short end of each slice facing you. Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of the potato-taro filling toward the bottom of each slice, and roll up to enclose.
8. Arrange 2 or 3 rolls in each shallow soup plate. Arrange the mushroom garnish on top of the rolls, pour the hot consommé over and around the rolls, and serve immediately.
If you omit the truffle peelings, you may want to use more truffle oil in the filling.
Substitute bottled horseradish for the fresh if necessary.
The inspiration for this recipe g...