July 20, 2012 | Breakfast, Fish & Seafood, Technique
When I first met my knee surgeon, it took him exactly 10 seconds to look at my x-ray and proclaim, “Yep, that knee is shot.” His conversation then quickly focused on what I do for a living, and within a minute he was giving me his recipe for home-curing salmon. In fact, we spent the next 20 minutes talking about cooking and food. At the time I was a bit concerned he wasn’t focusing the discussion on the impending knee replacement surgery. In hindsight, I appreciate how smooth he was in diverting my attention and calming me down. I vowed that as soon as I felt up to it, I would get myself into the kitchen to try his recipe. That day came three weeks after my surgery.There are a few things you should know if you’re going to cure your own salmon. First of all, you want a type of salmon that is fatty, as this helps give it that very silky, creamy texture. Second, it doesn’t take long to cure salmon – this was just under two full days of curing and it was perfect. Third, if you’re going to do this, cure a large piece and cut it into smaller pieces, wrap, and freeze.My surgeon may not be happy that I’m sharing his secret ingredient, but he uses onion powder in his cure mixture to add a nice background flavor. He also has some other tricks: after he rinses the cured salmon, he soaks the whole piece in cold water for about 10 minutes to soften it a bit; he often takes the cured salmon, wraps it in pastrami spices (cracked black pepper, coriander, paprika and garlic) for a day or so and then uses it for a sliced salmon pastrami sandwich; and finally, he thinly slices the hardened bits of cured salmon at the tail end, fries them up until crispy, and sprinkles them over eggs. Not only is he a brilliant surgeon, but he’s quite the cook, don’t you think?
- 1 cup kosher salt
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 salmon filet, about 2 pounds, skinned
- Mix salt, sugars, and onion powder until well combined. Pour about ⅓ of the mixture into the bottom of a baking dish just large enough to hold the piece of salmon. Sprinkle the remaining cure mixture on top of the fish, spreading so that the fish is evenly coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two days to cure. Check fish once or twice a day and drain off any liquid that has been extracted from the cure, then reposition the cure mixture to ensure the salmon stays coated.
- After two days, rinse off the cure mixture under cold running water. Place entire piece of cured salmon into a dish of cold water for 5-10 minutes to soften slightly, then pat completely dry.
- To serve, thinly slice tableside. To freeze, cut into portions, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze.