Monday, June 25, 2012

Tequila or Vodka Cured Salmon

Gil used to make a tequila cured salmon many moons ago, but I had a heck of time trying to locate his original recipe when we had a recent hankering for some good old-fashioned homemade lox with the works. So, based on some fuzzy remembrances of things past, along with a thorough perusal of all things lox/gravlax on the web, I came up with this rendition. 

So what's the difference between smoked and cured salmon? Well, smoked typically means you hang or place the salmon on racks over wood chips and slow (cold) smoke them over a low temp (e.g., 99F) for several hours, preferably overnight. Curing, however, is a totally different animal, and involves packing the salmon fillet in a 'brine' of salt, sugar, herbs & spices for about 48 hours. I must say, it was, well, pretty yum. The light splash of Cuervo Gold tequila, a good spice rub, and a healthy dose of fresh herbs really makes this recipe a keeper. 

3 lbs. salmon, skinned, trimmed & with pin bones removed
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup tequila (I like Cuervo Gold) or vodka
2 tbsp. black peppercorn
2 tbsp. coriander seed
Zest of 2 limes, 1 orange & 1 lemon
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley, chopped

1. Mix the brown sugar, salt, tequila, citrus zest, and crushed black peppercorn & coriander seed together in a medium bowl. Spread this mixture evenly on both sides of the salmon.

2. Combine the chopped fresh herbs in a bowl. Press the mixture into both sides of the salmon.

3. Wrap the salmon well in plastic wrap, then wrap in 2 layers of aluminum foil. Seal tightly and place on a baking sheet. Top with another baking sheet and weigh down with a few heavy cans and/or jars. Place in the frig and let cure for 48 hours, turning once.

4. Remove the foil & plastic wrap from the salmon; rinse the salmon under cool tap water to remove the curing spices & herbs. Pat dry with paper towels. Cut the salmon in half length wise, then cut each piece in half, to make a total of 4 pieces. 

5. To serve: slice the salmon very thinly and plate. Serve on bagel halves or sliced baguette/French bread. Perfect condiments are sliced tomatoes, red onion, fresh dill, horseradish sauce cream cheese and/or capers. 

6. If not serving all right away, you can freeze the unused portions (unsliced) by wrapping them well in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Will keep about 3 months in the freezer.

A 3-lb. side of salmon, skinned and with pin bones removed.

Lemon, lime & orange.

Zests of limes, lemon & orange.

Crush the black peppercorns & coriander.

Chopped basil, cilantro, dill and Italian parsley.

Mix the brown sugar, kosher salt, tequila, citrus zest, peppercorns & coriander seed together.

Spread the sugar-salt-spice mixture over both sides of the salmon.

Add the herbs to both sides of the salmon.

Cover salmon tightly with plastic wrap.

Wrap plastic-wrapped salmon tightly with 2 layers of aluminum foil.

Place a baking sheet on top of the wrapped salmon, then weigh down with heavy cans. Refrigerate for 48 hours, turning the salmon once halfway through the curing period.

Cut the salmon fillet lengthwise, then cut each portion in half.

Rinse the salmon pieces under tap water and pat dry with paper towels.

Slice the salmon thinly. If you aren't planning to serve this all at once, wrap the remaining salmon pieces (unsliced) in a couple layers of plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and freeze. They'll keep in the freezer for about 3 months.

Great served with sliced red onion, cream cheese, horseradish sauce, sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, and/or capers on a bagel or baguette.

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