I understand the temptation to methodically, if not a bit neurotically, follow a recipe. When I first began cooking, recipes were the only way that I could get good results (and even those attempts didn’t always turn out). After a while, however, I got a feel for how to season and how to taste. For me, cooking is about being flexible and attentive – not about precision. I love that I have the freedom to choose exactly what ingredients and flavors to use. Not only is this my main creative outlet, but it’s a nice feeling knowing that I have full power over my meals. Must be some sort of control thing.
My usual method when trying out new recipes/techniques is as follows: idea pops into head. Become obsessed with idea. Go through at least two pages of Google reading up on other people’s methods for idea. Formulate my own hodgepodge method based on my tastes and preferences. Attempt idea. Modify idea. Write down everything.
Rarely do I measure when I’m developing recipes, and I think that’s because I find strict measurements confining.
What a joy it was to find, then, that curing salmon was basically my culinary philosophy condensed into one terribly easy and modifiable “recipe.” I’m not sure whether to label this lox, or gravlax due to my addition of dill. I’m tempted to call it salmon with whatever the hell you want, because other than salt and sugar, you can really use whatever the hell you want. I added lime zest because salmon + citrus = heaven, but can you imagine how good this would be with sweeter orange zest? The black peppercorns make it a little spicy, and the dill gives the salmon that sweet, kind of bitter “umph” you sometimes need in life. My salt-sugar ratio is a good starting point for a fairly one-note saltiness, but if you like your lox sweeter, go ahead and up the sugar to ¼ cup.
I’m rambling. Here’s my rough recipe for cured salmon. Modify it to your heart’s whim, you creative person, you.
Homemade Lox (Cured Salmon)
1 ½ lb. salmon filet
¼ cup kosher salt
3 tablespoon sugar
1 cup minced fresh dill
Zest of one lime
1 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns
Sprinkle both sides of the salmon with the salt, sugar, dill, zest, and peppercorns on both sides in a non-reactive container (e.g. glass, plastic, ceramic). Try to coat each side evenly. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
Cure for 24-36 hours, depending on how salty you’d like it. Rinse or soak briefly in water and then dry on paper towel. Cut the gravlax into very thin slices and serve as part of a killer breakfast spread. You can make sandwiches with bagels and cream cheese, add to scrambled eggs, benedict it, or if you’re feeling it, just eat it as is.