I first found smoked fish when living in Manhattan; every Jewish-style deli worth its weight offered a great option. Smoked mussels were popular at my Maine wedding. And now, I generally only eat smoked salmon during layovers at London’s Heathrow Airport when I treat myself to a little fish and a lot of wine during those long layovers. No need any more. Now, I’ll eat smoked salmon toasts all season long with Sean’s no-fuss recipe. -Maggie
Before the invention of refrigeration, we relied on alternative methods of preservation: curing, salting, pickling, drying and smoking gave food longevity that was otherwise unachievable. These methods were about finding a balance between flavor and preservation, about making something taste good as well as making it last longer. Cooking like this can seem a bit antiquated and time-consuming nowadays, but I see preserving as meditative way of cooking. It forces us to spend time with the products, get to know them; in a way, nurture dishes until they are ready.
What I love about Gravadlax (or dill-cured salmon) is that it’s born from just a few local ingredients. Salmon, salt and dill are abundant in Scandinavia, so combining them to create a dish was almost inevitable, and the reliance on salt from the ocean to ‘cook’ the salmon is a beautiful way for us to work with nature in the kitchen.
This cured salmon is a twist on the Nordic version, using two bold English flavors – earl grey and gin – but still relying on the salt to do the work. As the salmon cures, the flavors develop and impart a delicate, citrus-y and almost fragrant touch to the salmon. The hint of bergamot from the earl grey blends with the sweet orange while holding back the juniper berry dominance from the gin. The flavors are subtle, as I like to taste the salmon too, but the longer you leave the cure, the stronger it will become. Although some might think gin and earl grey a strange pairing, they compliment each other perfectly. Gin was once used to ‘spice up’ an afternoon cup of earl grey in yesteryear, probably during those long, bleak English winters.
This is a recipe for a dinner party really – easy to make, easy to serve and the vivid orange color of the cured salmon always brightens up the table. I just let people serve themselves a few slices of this one, and it’s only polite to have a few G & Ts nearby too.
Earl Grey & Gin Cured Salmon Appetizer Toasts
Ingredients:For the Cured Salmon
- 3 teaspoons loose leaf earl grey, divided
- 1/2 cup caster sugar (very fine granulated sugar)
- 1/2 cup coarse sea salt
- Black pepper, for sprinkling
- 1 side (about 35 ounces) salmon
- 1 fluid ounce gin
- Juice from 1/2 orange
- 5 ounces crème fraiche
- Juice from 1/2 orange
- 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
- A few sprigs of dill, finely chopped
- Sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 loaf hearty dark bread (like rye), sliced thinly
- 1 large, deep baking dish
- 1 chopping board or large dish that fits into the baking dish
- A few cans or weights to weigh down the salmon
- Boil the kettle and pour the water over half the loose leaf tea – just enough to moisten the leaves.
- Mix the sugar, salt, pepper and remaining tea together in a bowl and sprinkle a thin layer into the bottom of the baking dish.
- Cut the salmon into 2 large pieces. If you don’t have a baking dish big enough, you can cut the salmon into manageable fillets. Lay one side of salmon in the dish, skin side down and sprinkle the cure all over. Then lay the other side, skin side up, on top of the salmon and sprinkle the remaining cure all over.
- Pour the orange juice, gin and tea over the salmon.
- Add a layer of plastic wrap over the dish and place the chopping board or dish on top of the fish. Add the cans and refrigerate. Every day, turn the salmon fillets over and baste with any liquid in the tray.
- The salmon will be ready after 48 hours, although could be left up to 72 hours for a slightly stronger cure.
- Make the cream 1 hour or so before serving. In a mixing bowl, add the crème fraiche, orange juice, mustard, and dill. Mix until flavors are combined and season to taste.
- When ready to serve, remove the salmon from the cure, rinse gently under cold water, scrape off any tea leaves and pat dry. Slice salmon as thin as possible and serve with the cream and slices of a good rye or dark bread.
Eat Boutique is an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista–shop girl, writer, author, and creative business coach. After hosting pop-up markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie is working to open her first permanent Eat Boutique–a food-retail concept space with a new way to the very best food–as well as coaching women in food to reach life and business goals. Her second cookbook, A New Way to Food: 100 Recipes to Encourage a Healthy Relationship with Food, Nourish Your Beautiful Body, and Celebrate Real Wellness for Life, will be published by Roost Books on February 5, 2019.