« Convention Capitalism at $1,000+ per night | Main | Pn. on H2O »

Aug 18, 2008

Gravlax a la Denver


Above, the last bits of Gravlax a la Denver, served at the 7th birthday party of my delightful young friend A., daughter of my friend-since-childhood L.

This platter was carried around the party by our friend Jn. who requested a name for the dish so she could introduce it properly.  Gravlax a la Denver was the best I could do on short notice while assembling a second batch, but a proper description would be "first-timer gravlax served on cream cheese and toast, with fresh dill and (most importantly) incredible grape tomatoes picked this afternoon from the garden of friends J., P. and M."

Believe what they tell you: it's easy to convert raw salmon into something extra fun with a handful of salt and sugar, a sprinkle of pepper, and a few sprigs of dill.

Here's what I ended up with after checking out a few recipes*:



  • Two salmon fillets (~.7 lbs each), skin-on.
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt [way too much! see notes below]
  • 1 tsp. black pepper [way too little!  I got tired of grinding]
  • 5 bunches dill


  • Coat the flesh side of the salmon fillets in the sugar, salt and pepper.
  • Sandwich the fillets with the dill in between.
  • Insert in a Ziploc bag
  • Throw in any remaining sugar, salt and pepper.
  • Squeeze out any air.
  • Weight down with something modestly heavy (e.g., a bag of rice)
  • Cure for 48 hours in refrigerator, turning every 12 hours
  • Remove from bag, rinse.
  • Place fillet skin-side down on a cutting board, and cut thin slices on a diagonal, with your knife blade perhaps 30 degrees from horizontal.
  • Slice thinly and on the diagonal (knife blade ~30 degrees from horizontal)

Things I noticed about today's gravlax:

  • This recipe was saltier than I would have liked because I mis-read the recipes. I will try with less salt next time, at least if I plan to eat it plain or just with capers.  However, with toast, cream cheese, dill and tomato, the saltiness was perfectly fine.
  • The thicker parts of the salmon definitely cured less than the thin parts -- the flesh was less salty and less firm.  Closer to (but still more firm than) nova lox.
  • Judging from what kids kept coming back for while I was prepping the snacks: (1) all kids love plain white bread, (2) almost all kids love plain white bread with cream cheese, (3) many kids like Gravlax a la Denver if they can pick off the raw tomato.
  • Clever Jn. pointed out that snipping the dill with scissors is a much faster way to distribute it over gravlax than trying to pluck bits off with my fingers.  Go Clever Jn.!  Even better than Clever Hans!
  • If the platter comes back with a bunch of empty toothpicks, it is kosher to reuse the toothpicks when making the next serving.**

Here's how it looks, mid-prep.  Mmm, pile o' salmon:



*If you Google gravlax and recipe***,  the first two recipes come from Cooking for Engineers (click for great photos) and Mark Bittman.  These recipes and others disagree on many points.  For example: Bittman says "It is imperative that the fish be as absolutely fresh as possible," while Cooking for Engineers says, "for safety [in killing parasites] use salmon that has been commercially frozen or freeze the salmon yourself to at least -10°F (-23°C) for at least 7 days."  While reviewing these and other recipes just now, I realize that I used way more salt than anyone would recommend for 1.5 lbs. of fish.  I'm not sure why I did that, but I'm glad I didn't ruin the product.

**Lookit, if the guests think it's OK to put their used toothpicks back on the serving platter...  What do they think, we've got nothing better to do than wash plates all day?  One platter, four batches of canapes, then wash: that's my game plan.  I seem to remember an etiquette expert advising "use your pants cuffs" to a gentleman who didn't know where to put his used toothpicks.

***How do you indicate Google search terms while clearly distinguishing whether you want the terms to be in quotes or not?  For my search, I inserted the words gravlax and recipe, but I didn't join them in quotes.  Normally, I'd be inclined to say, "Google "gravlax recipe" (no quotes)" but that seems annoying and/or longwinded ****.  How about if I wrote "Google gravlax recipe".  Would that be clear?  And if I wanted to search for something in quotes, I could say, "Google "Penny Marshall is my friend"

UPDATE, 3/09: Google uses square brackets to describe what goes in the search field.  Thus:

     Google [gravlax recipe]

is different from

     Google ["gravlax recipe"]


BTW, "Penny Marshall is my friend" (in quotes) is a Googlenope.  Unfortunately for fun, Google no longer returns a nearly blank page for a Googlenope.  Instead, they return a "no result for phrase in quotes" message followed by results for the words not searched as a phrase.  Ah well.

****I know, I know, so do I. On a regular basis.  But at least here in blogland you can skim.  Or skip.  Or skip to my lou.

01:38 AM in Food, Recipes, Traveling | Permalink


Whew, the footnotes-within-footnotes are David Foster Wallace-evoking.

My stylesheet (medical writing; the MLA and newspaper folks may disagree) says:
Google gravlax recipe (for without quotes)
Google "gravlax recipe" (for with quotes)

but if you are quoting yourself, use single quotes inside the double quotes, like: I said to my friend, "Google 'gravlax recipe'."

I've never heard of Googlenope or Googleyups. Awesome fun!

Posted by: Valerie | Aug 18, 2008 12:21:30 PM

I'm not sure about the " "s, but I am sure the gravlax was DEEEELISH - sometimes, the virtual world just doesn't do the real world justice! Give me a call when the internet allows taste and smell. You are quite the chef, Phil. MG, Lisa

Posted by: Lisa | Aug 18, 2008 11:26:14 PM

Thanks to you, "Penny Marshall is my friend" is no longer a Googlenope.

Posted by: lisa b | Aug 19, 2008 7:04:53 AM

Valerie wrote: "but if you are quoting yourself, use single quotes inside the double quotes, like: I said to my friend, "Google 'gravlax recipe'.""

Absolutely write. I've gotten lazy about this because sometimes I use triple layers of quotes (see above) and don't know how to "quotate" that (to use Arlo Guthrie's term). Lack of knowledge in the complex case made me lazy about the simpler case.

Posted by: Phil | Oct 13, 2008 3:08:34 PM

p.s. I'm also contrarian/lazy about where I put the punctuation mark in sentences that include quotes. When it comes to quotes, I say, "this is my preference". Not "this is my preference." I think this has to do with my math sense. The period ends everything, so it should be in the outside.

Posted by: Phil | Oct 13, 2008 3:20:33 PM