Cycle 12 – Item 361
1 (Sat) January 2022
Toast Gravad Lax
-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-
with the Family
Korean-Swedish Culinary Exchange (22) (see all posts on KSCX)
I can’t imagine a better way to kick off the new year than with a new installment of GMTD’s longest running and most beloved series. Gott Nytt År (I can’t imagine how to pronounce this)!
At long last, I present gravad lax.
I would’ve done it sooner, but whole salmon fillet is not readily available in Korea.
Gravad Lax (or gravlax) is a Scandinavian dish. Salmon fillet, cured with salt + sugar + pepper + fresh dill, as well as other flavoring agents. Historically, the fish was buried for a time as part of a longer fermentation process – the Swedish root “grav” has the same etymology as the English word “grave.” Gravad lax is typically served with a sweet mustard-dill sauce, alongside potatoes or toast.
Internet recipes for gravad lax are widely different. Amalgamating various formulations, I took the weight the fillet (680 g, after trimming away the belly flap), multiplied by 40% (270 g), combined equal amounts of sea salt (135 g) + sugar (135 g). I also added fresh dill + fresh parsley + zest of 2 lemons + 1 tbsp of black pepper, cracked + 1 tbsp of allspice, cracked. The fillet was coated evenly on both sides with the curing mix, wrapped in plastic film, weighed down by cast iron skillets, refrigerated.
It was left to cure for exactly 24 hours.
By then, the fish had lost about 10% of its original weight through osmosis, leaving the flesh drier and denser.
I threw out the expelled liquid (though maybe next time I can think of a way to using it in another application), scraped off what was left of the curing mix, rinsed the fillet, and patted it dry.
As is, the gravad lax was initially okay but underwhelming. I enjoyed the firm texture, preferable to the squishiness of smoked salmon. The seasoning was fine, perhaps a bit too sweet for my tastes, but curiously it didn’t have seem to have much salmon flavor, even though the curing should’ve intensified it.
As part of an hors d’oeuvre, the gravad lax came alive. I improvised canapés each with a square of toasted bread + a slice of cucumber + a slice of fish + a dollop of sauce (sour cream + horse radish sauce + hot sauce) + 2 capers + a couple sprigs of fresh dill. The additional components brought out the salmon flavor. DJ loved it, who adores salmon, though not really IZ – “Why is there grass on top?”
[The comments below are GK’s own words, with minor typographical edits from me.]
Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays!
I made the ddukbaegi gyeran jjim (뚝배기 계란찜) yesterday, both according to GMTD’s recipe and Maangchi’s recipe.
I started with the GMTD recipe.
This was the first time I got around to using the earthenware bowl (ddukbaegi), as well as the gas grill.
The first attempt turned out pretty bad. Firstly because I read the note of “Immediately begin to stir” too literally; I stirred not only the sides but also the middle part of the pot, making the whole thing a jumbled mess.
After cooking for 3 minutes + 1 minute under lid + 1 minute resting, the omelet still contained water, requiring a longer cooking time.
The end result turned out kinda like scrambled eggs.
I immediately (after washing the bowl) started out on a new attempt.
Note that I added scallions to your recipe, partly because I wanted to, and partly because I could see that you used it too.
This time, I made sure to scrape only the sides. The consistency turned out much better. I still needed to cook some extra minutes to get rid of water though.
Finally, I tried Maangchi’s recipe. I am sad to make you disappointed, but it turned out much better and felt much easier to make. Just mix all the ingredients immediately (except the sesame oil), cook under the lid the whole time (no work required except waiting).
And the end result turned out to have a much bigger volume, as well as feeling “creamier.”
I liked the taste of Maangchi’s more. Maybe because I preferred the visuals to begin with, or maybe because the water + fish sauce added some extra dimension to it (I might try with chicken broth the next time). And yeah, I forgot to add sesame oil to Maangchis dish in the end, so maybe I have to try it a final time again soon.
The one change I might make in the future is to lower the amount of water. There was some water left in the bottom. By the end of the cooking time fluids started to run out of the bowl, too.
On my effort:
- Question: the terms “gravadlax” and “gravlax” seem to be used interchangeably (in the States, the latter is the norm), but which is more common in Swedish?
- As most gravadlax recipes state at the outset, I was pleased to find that it’s super easy and thus look forward to trying it again, with different ingredients (e.g., vodka).
- I am very happy to add this to my repertoire; along with Toast Skagen, I now have 2 killer Swedish appetizers – in fact, I am confident that I could now prepare a pretty decent multi-course Swedish spread.
On GK’s effort
- I appreciate GK giving the GMTD recipe a second shot, and his brutal honesty in the final assessment.
- Based on the photos, I would agree that Maangchi’s looks better (although the longer cooking time appears to have produced more burnt egg in the bottom of the pot) – like I said before, she’s a pro; I’m not.
- In my defense, the GMTD recipe was formulated for a much smaller pot, which explains why the eggs only came up halfway in GK’s bigger pot; looks like it’s also too big for the Maangchi recipe, so now GK should adapt the number of eggs, amount of water, seasonings (try Yeondu!), and cooking time to fit his own pot.
- On that note, I am now wondering how many others have tried various GMTD recipes that turned out horribly, whether because the recipe is poorly formulated, or poorly described, or poorly interpreted, or poorly executed, or some combination thereof.
- Early on, I used to add a disclaimer to recipe posts that they weren’t intended for readers to try themselves, rather just for my own reference – as far as I’m aware, or recall, GK is the only reader who has ever tried a GMTD recipe and commented on it.
- About the spoon, I quote myself: “Scandinavians using viking-themed silverware is like Japanese using ninja-themed chopsticks” (see comments at 12.340 Köttbullar in Truffle Gravy)
As GK has already made bibimbap for the next installment of KSCX, I’m looking to make a comparable dish involving a mix of vegetables. I suppose that a salad would do, but maybe something more interesting? I am open to suggestions.
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)
3 thoughts on “12.361 Toast Gravad Lax”
WOW! I’m impressed with the results. I have never made gravad lax myself, and I would think most Swedes wouldn’t have done it either, since it’s kinda time consuming and I guess the price difference between buying a pack of fresh salmon and gravad lax in the store is kinda small…
Anyways, the lax looks great and I’m grad you could come up with a good way to serve it. I think most Swedes use it on a sandwich (similar to how you did it) or eat it with boiled potatoes, some vegetables and usually a sauce specially made for gravad lax (gravlaxsås, usually a mix of dill, mustard, vinegar and sugar).
Some other notes:
1. Judging from a quick google search, “gravad lax” (not gravadlax), i.e. literally something like “buried salmon” (adjective + noun) is more used. When it comes to describe the sauce that’s often used with gravad lax though, the term “gravlaxsås” is used (i.e. “sauce for gravad lax”, though it is it’s own noun)….
2. I will definitely continue adapting the recipe and give it more shots!
3. I don’t see why you would need to put a disclaimer on a recipe. Obviously you always risk messing up a dish, especially if you make it for the first time and have no frame of reference how’s it supposed to taste/be made.. It’s one thing if the reader risks injury/health problems due to improperly cooking/preparing the dish, another if it’s just a kinda bland meal…
4. And once again about the spoon, upon further research I guess the king and his men that are depicted should probably not the described as “vikings”, since the king in question is a Christian saint and credited with making Norway a Christian nation… (though he was a viking before he adopted Christianity in Normandy). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olaf_II_of_Norway
5. Concerning a suggestion for the next dish… I can’t think of anything on top of my head right now… But for a vegetarian dish (are eggs vegetarian?) I would suggest spinach soup:
1. thanks for the advice. i’ve changed the spelling to “gravad lax.”
2. in the learning spirit, i’m also trying new formulations of the dish, something of a hybrid between my original recipe and maanchi’s.
3. just trying to preempt any accusation that i put up a crappy recipe.
4. see my comment on the earlier post.
5. because of the spinach, it would seem to pair with bibimbab. thanks!
5. Looking forward to the result!