As a self-taught chef with an appetite for adventure, Tom Douglas’s name has become synonymous with food in the Pacific Northwest. He was the winner of the 1994 James Beard Award for Best Northwest Chef and 2012 James Beard Award as Best Restaurateur. I am honored to share his contribution to #5days5ways with Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon by way of his famous Gravlax, which you can find at one of his restaurants Lola, or … make at home! Chef Douglas shares a few words about Bristol Bay’s invaluable role in Northwestern identity, culture and cuisine:
Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery is one of the last great remaining salmon fisheries on earth. That’s why, as a restaurateur who owns 13 Seattle restaurants with a staff of nearly 800, and as a chef who feeds pristine wild salmon to thousands of people, the negative ecological impact that Pebble Mine will have on Bristol Bay’s pristine salmon population is of urgent concern.
Wild salmon is at the core of our identity and culture here in the Pacific Northwest. Wild salmon has shaped our communities and our economy and has inspired our region’s cuisine. This August, my company is hosting a large fundraising event in Victor Steinbrueck Park, which is located in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, in order to raise money for the maintenance of this beautiful park. The name of this fund raising event, now in its fifth year, is Salmon-Chanted Evening. Year after year at this event, we call on Seattleites to celebrate what is great about our town with what else but a wild salmon cookout. Wild salmon represents us and it brings us together as a community
Bristol Bay sockeye is an irreplaceable resource for us, but Bristol Bay’s salmon population and large-scale mining cannot coexist. Join me in supporting permanent protection for Bristol Bay from the Pebble Mine.
Lola serves this lush, house cured gravlax plate both at breakfast and brunch. Lola cooks use our own Dahlia Bakery onion-rye ficelle for the toasts, but you can use your favorite rye bread or other bread such as a baguette to make the toasts. Gravlax is not difficult to make, but curing is a two or three day process, so plan accordingly. It’s best to use a piece of salmon that is no more than an inch or two thick. A thicker piece will take longer to cure. A salmon fillet with the skin on will help you slice the gravlax paper thin after it is cured. Gravlax will keep for a week, covered in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. Use a spice grinder or a clean electric coffee bean grinder for grinding the spices.
- For the cure:
- Kosher Salt - 2/3 cup
- Granulated sugar - 2/3 cup
- Brown sugar - 1/4 cup, packed
- Paprika - 1 1/2 teaspoons
- Juniper berries - 1 teaspoon, ground
- Fennel seeds - 1 teaspoon, ground
- Cayenne - 1/4 teaspoon
- For the salmon:
- Wild sockeye salmon fillet - 1¼ pounds, preferably skin on, pin bones removed
- For the dill cream cheese:
- Cream cheese - 8 ounces (about 1 cup)
- Heavy cream - 1/4 cup
- Fresh dill - 2 tablespoons minced
- Kosher or sea salt - To taste
- Freshly ground black pepper - To taste
- To finish the plate:
- Thinly sliced rye bread or other bread - Toasted and buttered
- Tomatoes - sliced
- Capers - drained
- To make the gravlax, combine the cure ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle the bottom of a non-reactive pan, such as a glass pan, with about ½ inch of the cure and place the fish in the pan, skin side down. Blanket the fish with the remaining cure, which should form a layer about 1½ inches thick.
- Cover the salmon with a piece of wax paper and another smaller pan, then weight it down with a few cans. Store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days until the salmon is quite firm to the touch; the exact amount of time will depend on how thick your piece of salmon is. Remove the wax paper and the cans, then use a rubber spatula to scrape the cure from the salmon. Remove the salmon from the pan and briefly rinse it, then pat it dry with paper towels. Slice the gravlax very thinly on the bias.
- To make the dill cream cheese, put the cream cheese and cream in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment and beat until the cream cheese is softened. (Or you can use a food processor.) Add the dill and beat to combine. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
- To serve, arrange the sliced gravlax on a plate with a ramekin of dill cream cheese, toasts, and slices of tomato. Sprinkle with capers and serve.
Allergens: dairy, fish