We're excited to introduce you to the newest member of our Cooking Boulder tribe! Meet Jess O'Toole, the writer and photographer behind the stunning food blog La Domestique. Every Tuesday on her blog, Jess shares her ten favorite ways to cook with her ingredient of the week. Starting this Tuesday, Jess will write a weekly column that expands on one of those ten techniques.
To whet your appetite for what's to come, Jess graciously took a look back at this past week's ingredient (salt) and put together a few thoughts on the merits and beauty of curing -- salmon, that is. Her twist? A beet stain.
Photos by Jessica O’Toole
The ingredient of this past week at La Domestique was salt, the most basic pantry staple in our kitchens. This mineral has been used to cure meat for thousands of years. Then refrigeration was invented to preserve food, so people stopped curing meat and fish right? Wrong. Curing meat and fish at home is becoming more and more popular. Salt tenderizes and concentrates flavor. Curing makes food taste good.
Salt is used to cure raw meats and fish by withdrawing moisture and creating an environment that is inhospitable for certain bacteria. Curing at home is a great way to extend the life of fresh meat and fish from the store. The process transforms an ingredient into something completely different and more complex in taste.
The Swedish love their cured fish, especially gravlax, which is raw salmon cured in sugar, salt, and other flavorings. Cured salmon has a fresh, clean, herbal flavor and delicate texture. Wild-caught fresh Coho salmon is in season right now, so it’s a great time to give home-curing a try. The process is so simple and the results so delicious you’ll wonder why you’ve never tried it before.
For this recipe I was inspired by Jamie Oliver’s visit to Stockholm on the show Jamie’s Food Escapes. I remembered how he used grated raw beets as part of his salmon cure. The beets dye the salmon garnet red and contribute a sweet, earthy flavor. The cured fish was beautiful when sliced -- you could see layers of color ranging from deep red to bright orange.
When it comes to salt-curing salmon for gravlax, this recipe is just a general guideline. You can cure as large or small a piece of fish as your budget allows. Just make sure the salmon is entirely covered by the cure.
If you’ve never tried salt-curing at home, this is a great way to start. Enjoy cured salmon tossed in pasta, served atop a salad, incorporated into an omelet, or on a bagel.
Makes 1 side of salmon
1 uncooked side of salmon, tail end, skin-on, bones removed
8 tablespoons rock salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons grated fresh horseradish, to your taste
1 medium red beet, peeled
2 shots Schnapps
1 handful chopped dill and dill flowers
1 lemon, zest only
Curing salmon is just one of the ten ways Jess likes to use salt in the summer. See the other nine: 10 Ways Tuesday: Salt.
Jess writes the blog La Domestique, a site dedicated to cooking in the moment with ingredients from the pantry and garden.