i had a fresh, hefty salmon fillet i didn't feel like eating right away, but i was afraid a couple days in the fridge would do it harm, so i decided make gravlax, or cured salmon. gravlax is a swedish word, coming from grava, which means "to bury" (from the original method of burying the cured fish in the ground) and lax, or "salmon". i wasn't planning on burying it, although if i had that kim chee refrigerator, i'd be stylin'.
i decided to change my normal method for curing, which is traditional and uses a lot of dill for flavour. i took my cues from chef roy yamaguchi, who has several restaurants around the pacific rim that specialize in what he calls hawaiian fusion cuisine. one of the appetizers i've tried in his restaurant on island is an oriental-style cured salmon, which was wonderfully scented with lemongrass and ginger.
to make gravlax, you must cut the salmon fillet into two equal portions, leaving the skin on, but making several slashes in the skin. rub a couple tablespoons of vodka or sake all over the fish, then follow with a little white miso paste. in a bowl, combine equal parts of kosher salt, white sugar, and brown sugar (a quarter cup of each should be enough if your fillet is less than a pound). massage this mixture well into the exposed salmon flesh. prepare a mix of the following:
spread this onto the exposed sides of the fish, then lay sliced ginger and a good handful of cilantro onto one fillet (and star anise if you like the flavour) then place the second fillet on top of it with the exposed sides facing each other, like a sandwich. wrap this bundle tightly in foil or clingfilm, then in a resealable bag. keep in refrigerator, weighted down--a storage box of leftovers, a six pack of beer, a wheel of cheese, whatever. resist the urge to peek for 24 hours.
the next day, open up the packet. the salmon should start to get a little translucent and compact. flip the fillets so the skin sides are pressed together (keep the ginger, cilantro and star anise in the middle as well), rewrap, refrigerate and weight. and wait. for another 24 hours.
when it is done, the salmon should be sort of a cross between sashimi and lox, almost candied. slice thinly to serve.
i decided to serve mine on shiso (perilla) leaves. another hawaiian chef, alan wong, has an appetizer in his cookbook, new wave luau, of sizzled salmon belly and smoked salmon in chiso (shiso) leaves, which is where i got the idea.
mince the gravlax finely, with chopped cilantro, onion sprouts, and a squeeze of lemon and place on heaping mound on an individual shiso leaf. top with a mixture of sour cream, wasabi paste, and lemon.
simple, elegant, different.