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.