Homemade Gravlax & Prawn Crackers Appetizer

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Smoked Salmon on Prawn Crackers

Sometimes I get this crazy notions that I have a lot of time on my hand to do whatever. I know. Crazy right?! I mean, as the years go by I realize that "it will only take five minutes" will never be an accurate statement. It takes Bailey a mere 30 seconds to hide my shoe and I end up spending the next hour looking for it (what do you mean you have more than one pair of shoes?!!). However I relish recipes that allow me to marinate, brine or cure. Recipes that let time do its thing. Not in five minutes and surely not in thirty seconds.

There is virtue in meals quickly put together. My better half is eating a lot of leftovers with a poached egg on top as I work my way through several book projects at once. That really takes ten minutes and it's just fine most nights. There are however days when I want to take more time with food. So I make ravioli and enjoy rolling dough to relieve stress and I release a few expletives in the process. I let my pan of ratatouille go on for hours until perfectly caramelized. I relish in the long simmering process of onion soup.

Smoked Salmon on Prawn Crackers

And then entered gravlax...The last time I had made gravlax was over 10 years ago. On a whim. After watching The Galloping Gourmet on T.V. I remember it distinctly because France had not been exposed to many cooking shows before and something about the concept was brilliant. The experience was so easy that I really can't figure out why I waited this long to make it again.

It is so simple and you can literally put the cure together in less than 10 minutes and two days later have the most delicious gravlax. Bill loves it on his bagels in the morning and could not stop asking me "ready yet?" "are you sure it's not ready yet?" I kept repeating like a stubborn mule "Thirty six hours dear. Be patient". Patience is key. The gravlax is buttery, sweet and salty and fragrant of dill and juniper berries all at the same time.

Light & Healthy

Some of us belonging to the Martha Stewart Circle were gifted with quite many pounds of fresh Norwegian Salmon as part of a campaign they were running. I love salmon but living on the waters of South Carolina, it is not a fish I buy often since it does not fish in the waters around here and I try to support local fishermen as much as possible. If I get salmon, I get Pacific wild salmon but I was intrigued by the claims of sustainability and ethically ocean-farmed raised salmon.

I got in touch with my favorite source on everything seafood, Becky from Chef Reinvented whose first cookbook, aptly entitled Good Fish is coming out in the Spring. What came out of our exchange, and without knowing lots of specifics about this company, is that not all ocean farmed salmon is equal and that some Norwegian farms are better than other farms, do not use antibiotics and monitor the growth and feeding of the salmon carefully. We both agree that even though it could be raised in better conditions than other farms in the world, it still does not compared to wild caught salmon. We also determined that it would be a waste of darn good fish not to cook with the one I had received!

Smoked Salmon on Prawn Crackers

I started with making Thai Coconut Salmon Soup actually and posted a preview on Flickr a couple of weeks ago but did not get around to post yet. The second one was this appetizer made with homemade gravlax and I could not help but make a quiche. No fear, everything will be up on the site at some point! Nothing could be easier than this appetizer. Well once the gravlax is done of course... I pan fried some dried prawn crackers (also named chips depending on the brand) and topped each with a slice of radish, some gravlax, a dollop of creme fraiche and sprinkled everything with chopped chives and pomegranate seeds. The combination of sea, sweet and salty was pure joy on the tastebuds.

Oh dear... we ate the entire thing that evening with some bubbly and shared it all with good friends.

Homemade Gravlax And Prawn Crackers Appetizer:

Serves 12

For the gravlax, adapted from The Minimalist.

Time: 10 minutes, plus 24 to 36 hours' refrigeration

1 cup salt
2 cups sugar
1 bunch dill, stems and all, chopped
2 tablespoons cracked juniper berries
1 2- to 3-pound fillet of salmon, pin bones removed.

Mix together the salt, sugar, dill and juniper berries. Place the salmon, skin side down, on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Cover the flesh side of the salmon with the salt mixture, making sure to coat it completely. (There will be lots of salt mix; just pile it on.)
Wrap the fish well. If the temperature is below 70 degrees, and it is not too inconvenient, let it rest outside the refrigerator for about 6 hours, then refrigerate for 18 to 24 hours more. Otherwise, refrigerate immediately for about 36 hours.
Unwrap the salmon, and rinse off the cure. Dry, then slice on the bias (see illustration). Serve plain or with lemon wedges, creme fraiche, sour cream or a light vinaigrette.

For the rest of the ingredients:
freshly fried prawn crackers/chips or already made ones - just make sure they are fresh! (available at most Asian grocery store)
12 thin slices of radish
1/3 cup creme fraiche or sour cream mixed in with some salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Make the gravlax according to the recipe directions. Fry the prawn chips according to package instructions or use already fried ones (available at Asian grocery stores) Layer slices of radishes, slices of salmon, top with dollops of sour cream, some chives and pomegranate seeds.

Use as little or as much as you want...just be prepared. The combination is seriously addicting!!

37 comments:

♥peachkins♥ said...

It looks awesome!

Melissa said...

I can't get past the name! I don't know why because I'm a Canadian west coast girl who eats Pacific salmon by the boatload. (I think I could live on salmon sashimi). It just sounds like a mix of Gravol and Ajax! But as always, your photos are beautiful and I bet it really was tasty.

Kay | Cheap Flyer Printing said...

This looks yummy plus the presentation of the food is just amazing. I'm thinking if ever a recipe like this is infront of me, I will have a very hard decision to make, because the presentation is so nice that I can't bear ruining it because I'm drooling to eat it.

FaB Keramik said...

I love your blog - so inspiring!
Fantastic photo!
/ Frida

Alex said...

Just gotta love Gravlax!

Cupcake said...

So delicate and pretty (and delicious). Your photography is light and airy. Really pretty.
Cupcake
www.thefamily-table.blogspot.com

Scented Powder said...

mmmhhhh yummy! looks delicious!! I love your blog :)
xoxo
Scented Powder

samsara said...

The prawn chips are so beautiful and seem to be a perfect pairing with the salty sweet salmon. As always your photos and style are amazing.
Where can you buy prawn chips?

Asia Jacyna said...

I've peeked a sneak into your blog for a long time and I finally have to come out from undercover. I absolutely love your photos. The colors are so vivid- especially the blue and purple colored glass!
Can I ask what kind of camera you use?

The InTolerant Chef said...

I like the contrast between the soft fleshed salmon and the crispy crunch of the prawn crackers, yumm...

Kelly @ EvilShenanigans said...

Those are just too cute, and they sound like a lovely little nibble!

What Happens After Five said...

Looks beautiful! I love that pink bottle as well!!

Gen said...

C'est très mignon! Et les couleurs sont très appétissantes! Parfait pour un apéro!

Benny said...

They are too nice to be eaten!!

www.beinitaly.blogspot.com

(today I posted the ingredients for an alternative lasagna/pizza!!!)

Ida said...

Hi!
The word "gravlax" is Swedish! "Lax" is salmon in Swedish and "Gravning" is an old method of preserving the salmon by buring it into the ground. "Grav" is grave in Swedish. The French that visited the Swedish king in the 17th century didn't like the way the Swedes buried the salmon. They wanted a more delicate method and the court found a way of marinating the fish to preserve it instead!

With best weekend wishes from Sweden! :)

Helene said...

Ida: I don't recall saying anything to the contrary.

Brenna [fabuleuxdestin] said...

So pretty! so so pretty!

Miriam Leigh said...

Oh how exciting! I've always wanted to do this and I've known how easy it is, but I just couldn't get motivated. Your pretty pictures and lovely words have inspired me. My mouth is watering.

Becky said...

Hi Helene:

Thank you so much for mentioning me in your blog and consulting with me about the salmon - I would like to clarify my thoughts here, if I may. What I meant to express to you was that if I haven't been to the farm itself I can't really say definitively what goes on there - some are better than others. Mostly what I wanted to convey to you is that the salmon you were gifted lived and died and it would be a waste not to eat it.

However, I'm a firm believer in the fact that salmon should not be farmed in the ocean - there are just too many problems associated with it. Norway is one of the biggest producers of the world's ocean farmed salmon. I'd like to see us get a bit smarter and more sustainably minded when it comes to farming fish - here's a video (yes, completely anti ocean-farming biased but this in agreement with all the research I've also done on the topic)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eggrGn0V0fg

all this aside, your photography *$)^&@* rocks and so do you. ;)

La Roquette said...

Your lighting is incredible, do you always shoot in daylight?
My problem is I've got a weekday 8-6 job, which means i come home and its dark... so I can only cook & shoot during weekends...

Is there a solution for this? would artificial lighting be as good?

peasepudding said...

I love Gravlax too, I marinate mine with a sneaky bit of gin too! Gourmet Gannet

On A Day In November said...

Lovely pictures and it sounds delicious! This seems an interesting way to change things up with classic grav lax.
I seriously LOVE your blog, you're an amazing stylist and photographer, really inspiring.

Helene said...

Becky: Yes, I think we both agree on that matter. Sorry if I did not convey your thoughts appropriately and thank you for adding that video!

La Roquette: No, I shoot anytime I can actually. Day or evening depending on my schedule. Artificial lighting is a good solution but there are many to chose from. I just finished writing the chapter on artificial light for my book coming out in May. It'd be absurd to ask you to wait that long to fix your problem but I'd start researching studio kits, speedlights, or maybe for now changing one light bulb for a fluorescent Lowel Ego one and place a white lampshade over it to diffuse the light. Change your white balance and compensate your exposure accordingly and it will start to look more like daylight than artificial.

Lael@educatedpalate.net said...

Gravlax and the Galloping Gourmet! What could be more fun. Somehow the crop of modern Food TV shows just doesn't reach his level.

La Roquette said...

Thanks you for your help.. will definitely look around for lights.. cant wait for your book :)

Thankyou

Helene said...

La Roquette: that would set you up about $15 which will get you started but can only take you so far... Also, practice the light you already have with different White Balance settings on your camera. A studio kit will run about $200, a speedlight about $500 and a soft box about $100. You can also make up your own box for less than $20. It will be great for macro shots unless you buy a huge one for bigger settings. Read more here.
I'd say start with a Lowel Ego bulb and a lamp shade to diffuse, and use the light you have at your house with a different white balance. That's a quick fix but it will give you a better grip on what artificial light does with different white balances.

Joy said...

What a wonderful idea to pair the cured salmon with a prawn chip. I use to love it when my mom would make those for me as a child -- great recipe!

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

This is lovely and I will definitely try it soon.

I've been smoking my own salmon for years now and can't even look at the store bought kind, it seems so overwhelming salty and smoky. I love gravlax, so it makes sense to try making it myself!

Thanks for the inspiration...

Amanda @ Playing with Food said...

I usually go cuckoo for prawn crackers, but I've never thought of pairing it this way before. Very interesting :)

Michaela @ The Gardener's Eden said...

Hello Helene,
I am quite a new reader, but I have begun following your blog with great passion, and reading older posts like a ravenous visitor to your exquisitely set table. Your recipes are inspiring, of course. But the unusual, painterly composition and color of your photographs {due to your gift of styling} are what really compelled me to write. I am so enjoying my visits here, as well as your lovely, photo-linked tweets.
I found you through {this is glamorous}, immediately fell in love & subscribed to your RSS feed. I tell everyone about your wonderful blog --the most delicious among food journals that I have ever seen.
Thank you. I am only a beginning baker ---mostly a gardener, artist and curious cook--- but I look forward --hungrily-- to your beautiful, inspirational posts.
xo Michaela

Amy said...

How beautiful! Love the way you use the shrimp crackers to hold everything together. :)

Daniella - BakeCake said...

It looks really delicious! Gravlax is a swedish tradition and we eat it every Christmas! It's so good! I love your blog, I get soo much inspiration from it! If you want to I would be so happy if you visited my bake-/foodblog. Have a great weekend! Hugs, Daniella - BakeCake

Sabine said...

I just found your blog, and all I can say is WOW. Your pictures a truly beautiful. I'm looking forward to perusing through previous recipes and posts.
Is the wood that you take most of the pictures on, a dining room table, a picnic table? I am very curious.

Dana said...

What a great idea! These will totally be at my next party.

ParisBreakfasts said...

How I wish I could do with watercolor what you do with that bottle and glasses.
Luminescent.
Love your DOF.
cg

GuFf said...

Wow, I never would have thought to make gravlax myself but you have inspired me, and it turns out it really is as easy as you say. Thank you!

Sabrina said...

Beautiful pictures. I'm inspired to try my hand at making gravlax!

I was wondering where you purchased the beautiful pink/purple bottle? I'd love to get a couple.

Thanks for the inspiration!

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