Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Citrus-Cured Salmon

I've been reading Ruhlman's Twenty: 20 Techniques 100 Recipes A Cook's Manifesto after receiving a review copy, and it's written in such a straightforward, accessible style, it's a pleasure to read. This is no dry, kitchen science textbook. Instead, it offers twenty topics and all the ways those topics affect different types of cooking, and there are recipes with photos for each. Whatever your level of comfort with cooking, each chapter offers clear explanations of techniques and concepts that will improve your skills in the kitchen and the food you serve. From the very basics of being organized in the kitchen to seasoning to the various wonders of eggs and on and on, this book offers examples, tips, and some scientific facts about what works best and why. In the butter chapter, the basics of how butter shortens the strands of gluten in flour are explained, and then there's a description of beurre monte which is made by whisking butter into hot water and can be used to poach shellfish. There's also a mention of brown butter, compound butters, and butter used for confit. The reminders and insights about all of the uses of this one simple ingredient were an inspiration. With an understanding of basic techniques, you can cook with confidence and creativity. At the end of each chapter, there are corresponding recipes that make you want to put the ideas into practice, and it wasn't long before I was on my way to the kitchen.

Chapter two is about salt, and it includes types of salt, seasoning, brining, and preserving. Two recipes I started immediately were the lemon confit and the citrus-cured salmon. They are both so unbelievably easy, I have no idea why I'd never tried either before. For the lemons, they're simply packed with a mix of salt and sugar, covered with water and left to cure for a month. Check back in a few weeks, and I'll be mentioning them again. The salmon is almost as simple as the lemons. I'm so glad I decided to try this right after seeing it in the book. I luckily showed up at the fish counter on the last day that fresh, wild salmon was available this year. I brought home a big fillet and prepared the cure. Two parts salt to one part sugar were combined, and a lemon, a lime, an orange, and a grapefruit were zested. Organic citrus is best to avoid any chemical residue on the outer skin when using the zest. Some of the salt mixture was placed on a big piece of foil, the salmon was set on that, the citrus zests were sprinkled over the salmon, and the remaining salt mixture was poured over the top. Another piece of foil was placed over the salmon, and it was tightly folded together and sealed all around. The foil package was placed on a baking sheet, and a baking pan weighted down with jars from the refrigerator was set on top of the salmon. By pressing the salmon, more water is released as it cures. It was left in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Some recipes from other sources do suggest a longer curing time, and it depends on the thickness of the salmon. You should check it after 24 hours, and if the flesh still feels raw, leave it in the cure for another day. Since the salmon I used was rather thin, 24 hours was enough time for it to become firm. The salt mixture was washed off, the salmon was dried, and it was time to slice.

The only difficulty with home-cured salmon is slicing. A long, thin, serrated knife is best, but a bread knife was the closest thing I had. I did what I could. The slices weren't nearly as perfect and lovely as store-bought cured salmon, but I was proud of them anyway. I'll definitely be curing salmon again in the future, so I'll eventually get more practice at this. First, I had to use some salmon on a bagel. It was fresh and lovely with just a hint of citrus. Up next, I used some of the salmon in the smoked salmon panzanella with feta, dill, and grapes from the book For Cod and Country. It was a minor luxury to have so much cured salmon on hand, and now that I'm comfortable with that technique, I'm looking forward to mastering a few more of the twenty.



31 comments:

  1. Mmhhh, this citrusy version of Gravelax is wonderful! I bet the salmon taste extremelx good.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. home-cured salmon looks and sounds wholesome. look forward to see the cured lemons.

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  3. I think you did a great job slicing, Lisa. I watched Ina Garten do it once and figured I would make a hash of it. Can't remember now what kind of knife she used.
    I'd love to try this, though.

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  4. I love delightful, simple preparations like this. Salmon also happens to be a favourite. Very nice Lisa!

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  5. I always wanted to make my own cures salmon. Very tempting!

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  6. Your review has made this a must read for me. The salmon really sounds delicious. I'm rather new here and I don't often comment, but I wanted to say hello and let you know I'm here. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

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  7. I'm a fairly new blogger and I just stumbled across your blog, and I must say, it's gorgeous! The photos and layout are all beautiful, and the food (of course!) looks great. I never even thought of making salmon like this! Kudos.

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  8. That's wonderful! you did your own cured salmon, thank you for sharing the citrus technique. I eat salmon every week, so must be very nice to start doing it myself. I guess you have a salmon feast at your kitchen, mmmm...

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  9. Ah, this is the cured salmon from that lovely sounding breakfast you tweeted about. Now I'm really sorry I didn't go knock on your door! I would never have thought curing salmon was so easy either.

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  10. Techniques and 'ratios' (his other book) are much more important than recipes. Once you've learned them, you can create your own recipes!

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  11. I'm worried about over-salting my fish. How thick was your salt-sugar layer on the bottom?

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  12. This salmon really looks mouthwatering!

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  13. That first picture just kills me, fabulous. Although I adore smoked salmon and eat it a lot, I don't think I'd want to cure my own. We have access to awesome salmon here in the UK! I just wish we had some other great fish like sturgeon and sable.
    *kisses* HH

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  14. Avery: The bottom layer of salt/sugar is about a quarter inch thick or so. You need a good amount of salt to draw the moisture out of the salmon. But, rinsing the salt away once it's done its job prevents the salmon from tasting too salty.

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  15. I LOVE all salmon, especially with lemon so this is on my must try list!

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  16. It never came to my mind to cure my salmon. We love salmon especially on cream cheese and bagel like your first picture.

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  17. You've inspired me to make my own smoked salmon Lisa! :D Thank you!

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  18. This looks really fantastic! Yum - what amazing flavors! I've never cured my own salmon but I bet it is amazing! :)

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  19. Reminds me of gravlax! Love the addition of citrus ingredients.

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  20. sooooooooooper dooooooooooooper dish...can have at any time..;)
    Tasty Appetite

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  21. What a great book. It never occured to me that curing salmon would be something to do at home!

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  22. I love making this for a party. It impresses people, yet is secretly so easy to make. Plus, making your own is sure a lot cheaper, too.

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  23. Your salmon looks terrific. What a great technique to learn!

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  24. Wow! Curing your own salmon. I am inspired!

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  25. I am so saving this recipe Lisa! I just love salmon and exactly for this reason. It is just so versatile in the right hands. And YOU! handled it superbly!

    Thank you so much for sharing...

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  26. But your slicing looks perfect! :D

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  27. This is fantastic! I ususally just do this sort of thing with fennel but the salmon would be so tender :)

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  28. Sounds like a book I would totally love to read. I am going to have to look for it. Citrus cured salmon? Sounds heavenly!!

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  29. Looks good :) Would you mind if I included it with the recipes on mydish.co.uk?. They always love more recipe ideas like this :) and i think the community there would love it :)

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