Gravlax, baby step by baby step

Before I knew any better, I thought cured salmon must be a very difficult thing to make, and I’m sure I believed it required all sorts of torturously complicated equipment, too. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I had the utter simplicity of gravlax demonstrated to me by a real live Viking!

tor the Viking

Tor is Norwegian (so it’s “gravlaks” to him, I suppose). He can look quite fierce when he wants to — and, I’m sure he actually was quite fierce, back in his days as a sea captain — but I happen to know that he’s also a big softie.  Tor is the adoring – and adored – grandfather of my younger brother’s children. He taught them all to “skol” as soon as they could pick up their sippy cups!

fondant kids-2

Here the children are here, in fondant form, as they appeared on top of Tor’s latest birthday cake (made by my sister-in-law). And here is Tor’s recipe for gravlax, which even the children wolf down like sea monsters. It’s very easy and delicious, and a nice change from smoked salmon. It also looks impressive and makes a great excuse for a party.

Here’s Tor’s latest batch ready to be weighted down in the fridge for a few days:

ready to weight

And, here’s his recipe. Follow step-by-easy-step and you can’t go wrong:

Gravlax by Tor

2 identical 1-pound/450 g fresh, wild Atlantic salmon filet, skin on
2 tablespoons brown or white sugar
4 tablespoons sea salt
A sprinkling of white pepper (optional)
A large bunch of fresh dill

1. Tor recommends freezing the fresh fish for 24 hours first as this will kill any parasites. Then thaw it.

2. Once thawed, pat the fish dry with paper towel. Remove any pin bones using fish tweezers (or have the fishmonger do that for you.)

3. Lay one piece of fish skin-side down in a shallow, glass dish.

4. Mix the sugar, salt and pepper, then sprinkle evenly over the fish.

5. Scatter over the dill fronds.

6. Lay the other piece of fish on top, sandwich-like, skin side up. Cover with waxed paper, then cover the whole dish with tinfoil.

7. Weight the fish by laying a thin board over it, then setting a brick on top. Cans of food also work, or a bowl filled with water.

8. Tor lets his gravlax sit out in the kitchen for most of the first day before refrigerating it for 3 full days. It gets turned every 12 hours, morning and night, and any liquid that has emerged is drained off out of the dish at the same time.

9. It’s ready! Remove the fish from the fridge, and take off the weights and wrappings. Lay each half of fish flesh-side up and wipe away the curing ingredients. Remove the skin from the salmon and discard it.

10. To serve, slice thinly on the diagonal, cutting only as much as you intend to eat.  Tor likes his gravlax with mustard sauce, the recipe for which is coming up in a minute. Then you also need lightly toasted, thinly sliced bread. Serve the whole business canapé style with the sauce drizzled over.

11. Store gravlax wrapped in the refrigerator. It keeps about a week.

Mustard Sauce to drizzle over top:

Makes:  about a cup

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 egg yolk
About 3/4 cup/175 ml grapeseed oil
Salt and pepper
A handful or two of chopped fresh dill

Whisk together the mustard, sugar, vinegar, and egg yolk. Whisk in the oil, drop by drop, to make a smooth, emulsified sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the dill. Serve on gravlax and thinly sliced, lightly toasted bread.



  • Jennifer Fuchs on Apr 16, 2014 Reply

    Can’t wait to try out this recipe, I’ve been Gravlaks curious for quite some time now. Loved reading about Tor, maybe he should write his own books as well!

  • Gary on Apr 11, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Laura. Great recipe. Wish you your back on USA TV.

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