Heady summer days full of squealing children and oppressive heat calls for simplification.
Simplifying dinners could mean a lightly thrown together salad, cold sandwiches, or maybe a fancier alternative, such as tapas style eating, a favourite of my family. When I think of tapas, I think of cheese and vegetables fresh from the markets, cured meats, olives, fruits, and seafood. What could be better than sitting on the patio, sipping your favourite cocktail (newly removed from the forbidden list) and snacking on your most cherished of foods.
Seafood has always played a large role in my life, as my mother was a salmon fishing guide for most of it. My childhood was spent huddled around a “Little Chief” smoker waiting to sample the newest catch as it came hot out of the smoke filled air within. Summers were spent eating meals of fresh cod, salmon, crab, or whatever we could get our hot little hands on.
One of the best things my mother came up with to “deal” with the salmon (after too many salty sea years aboard a Boston Whaler with many a crusty customer [read: man] at the reels, my mother’s fondness for salmon faded slightly) was a delicious version of gravlax, brined in the smoky leaves of Lapsang Souchong. I relished every year when a new batch would appear and consumed more than my fair share I’m sure. I wish those days were still here, but as I’ve said before, my parents are now, enviably, retired. I have to put up with only getting fresh salmon once in a while or, with deep pockets, from the seafood counters.
If you are not familiar with gravlax, it is better known as the more economical cousin of lox. Loz is actually brined and takes a much longer time to cure, whereas gravlax takes a mere 48 hours and can be done right in your own refrigerator with (most) ingredients you probably have on hand.
Oh and the picture above of the tiny feet? Just giving you a glimpse into my daily life…
Tea Brined Gravlax
Yield: 2 1/2 lb. finished gravlax
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus drying time in refrigerator
3/4 cup Lapsang Souchong tea leaves
1/2 cup boiling water
3 lb salmon fillet (with skin on)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup coarse sea salt
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh cracked pepper
2 Tbsp good quality sake
1. In a small bowl, pour boiling water over tea. Steep long enough to cool the water to room temperature.
2. Line a shallow baking tray large enough to hold whole fillet with plastic wrap, allowing a large overlap to eventually fold over fish.
3. In another small bowl, combine sugar, salt and pepper.
4. Sprinkle a quarter of the mixture in the bottom of the plastic lined tray.
5. Place fillet on mixture, skin side down.
6. Rub wet tea leaves onto top of fillet, drizzle evenly with sake, and sprinkle with remaining salt mixture.
7. Fold plastic wrap firmly over fish, placing a smaller tray on top of fillet.
8. Place in refrigerator and top with heavy items (such as cans).
9. Refrigerate for 48 hours, turning every 12 hours.
10. Remove from brine and rinse under cold running water. Pat dry.
11. Slice thinly and serve.
Gravlax is very good as a substitute for lox and is delicious over bagels with cream cheese or even in sushi. Even just with a little crackers and cheese!