26 November 2011

Smørbrød med Gravlaks

If you want the fish to last through winter, you need to get creative!

Winters here in Norway have historically been very harsh. Long, cold winters made the conditions for survival very hard; you couldn't go fishing and you couldn't plant anything to eat. To make up for it, we ended up curing various kinds of food, like smoked salmon, pickled herring (sursild), salted cod and gravlaks, as we needed them to last through the winter. For much the same reasons, dried flat bread (flattbrød), crisp bread (knekkebrød) and a tradition of making jam, saft (concentrated berry/fruit juice) and pickled vegetables all became woven into Norway's culinary heritage. These foods did not only pleased the palate; they were vital in order to get those nutritions and vitamins that we needed to last through the blizzards.

The cuisine of the fjord-lands may not be as widely known as Italian or Chinese cooking, mostly, I suspect, because it often is heavy, which isn't en vogue these days. But this is doing it no justice, because when it's well prepared, it's wonderful, delicious food that deserves recognition. Take this gravlaks, for example. It's the quintessential Viking dish of salmon cured in dill, salt and sugar. I've twisted the traditional method ever so slightly, by adding crushed juniper berries, but mostly I've been a good girl and stuck to the traditional.

Gravlaks is really easy to make, though, which is good. All you need is some sugar, salt, dill – or in my case, juniper berries – and a salmon fillet. You smear lots of the former into the latter and place it in the fridge for three days, turning it over once or twice a day. In case you're interested, the word 'gravlaks' is made up of the verb grav, ''to dig'' and laks, ''salmon'', referring to the time when fishermen used to lightly ferment the salmon by burying it in the sand. Fortunately, we don't need to do that these days :-) 

Norwegians love open sandwiches, smørbrød, and gravlaks with mustard sauce and dill is very popular. All you need is a slice of white bread, some gravlaks and a tablespoon of mustard sauce, and vips! – you're done. Perfect for kveldsmat (lit. 'evening food'), when you don't feel cooking anything at the end of the day, but still fancy a satisfying nibble before bedtime.

Oh, and please refrain from putting another slice of bread on top of your sandwich. It's considered sacrilege to a Norwegian. Tusen takk.

Gravlaks :: Cured Salmon
Original recipe by © Marion Fløysvik

1 kg. salmon fillet*
1 tsp. black pepper
4 tbsp. fine salt or thyme salt
3 tbsp. sugar
55 crushes juniper berries, or to taste

1.Clean a bacteria-free, clean salmon fillet, making sure to remove the bones. Keep the skin.

2.In a mortar, crush the junipers along with the salt, pepper and sugar. Using your hands, rub the salmon fillet with 75% of the mixture. Save the rest of the mixture; you'll need it to sprinkle on top of the salmon.

3.Put the salmon in a plastic bag or wrap it tightly in plastic. Let the fillet rest in the fridge for 2-3 days under pressure (just place something heavy on top). Turn the fillet once or twice a day.

4.Unwrap and clean the salmon. Slice the gravlaks into thin, diagonal slices.

Smørbrød med Gravlaks
Original recipe by © Marion Fløysvik

Six slices of spiralloff (see recipe above)

Six thick slices of gravlaks (see recipe above)
Mustard sauce (see recipe below)
Dill, to serve

Mustard Sauce
1.5 tbsp. mustard

1/2 tbsp. sugar
1/3 tbsp. vinegar
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp. oil
Finely chopped dill

1.Mustard Sauce: Whisk all ingredients together.

2.On each slice of bread, smear a thin layer of mustard sauce, then top with gravlaks and dill.                                                                   

4 comment (s):

Mor said...

Beste gravlaksen eg har smakt! Imponerande!

Marion said...

Tusen takk :)

Baltic Maid said...

Germans love open sandwiches, too. And I love salmon but I have never had Gravlaks before. It looks delicious!!

Marion said...

Yes, I know. Laugenbrötchen mit Würste is one of my favourites :)

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