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Steelhead Gravlax from Joe Keough

September 17, 2012

Once you've caught your keeper, get it on ice as soon as possible. I don't mean dragging it around on a stringer for an hour while you keep fishing. I also don't mean tossing it into a cooler with a bottle of frozen water. I mean placing it in a cooler with enough ice to cover it. More ice than you think you'll need. If you can add salt to the ice, so much the better. The salt will actually lower the temperature to slightly below 32 degrees F.

If you're going to make Gravlax with your steelhead, don't filet it and then freeze it for later. You want to use fresh fish for this recipe. It makes a huge difference.

Filet the fish leaving the skin on (there is no need to scale it). Once you have both filets (free of the rib cages), you will need to remove the pin bones. Run your fingers along the length of the filet and you will feel the pin bones that run along the fishes lateral line. With a pair of tweezers or needle nose pliers, pull the pin bones out one by one. With just a little practice, you can do this in a minute or two. Now you're ready to make steelhead gravlax.

Gravlax is just one of many names used to describe salt-cured salmon. If it's from Scandinavia, it's called Gravlax. If it's from Nova Scotia, it's known as Nova Lox. Sometimes it's just referred to as Lox. Basically, all of the recipes are the same with just minor differences.

You will need:

- One steelhead trout, fileted

- One cup of salt

- 2 cups brown sugar

- 1 tbsp. fresh-ground black pepper

- 2 large bunches of dill, chopped roughly (including stems)

- Plastic wrap

- Aluminum foil

- Two large plates

- Something heavy, like a foil covered brick or stone

Combine the chopped herbs and dry ingredients in a bowl, mixing well. Spread out the plastic wrap on a surface large enough for your filets. Place both filets skin-side down on the plastic wrap. Cover both filets with the dry mixture and gently massage it into the filets. Once that is done "reassemble" your fish! In other words, place one filet on top of the other so that the flesh sides of the filets are touching each other, skin side out. Use any extra dry rub on the skin side of the filets.

Wrap the "reassembled" fish tightly with several layers of plastic wrap. Now wrap the package tightly with aluminum foil. Place the package on a plate (or dish). Place another plate or dish on top of the package of steelhead and weigh it down with a foil covered brick or other heavy object (2 to 5 pounds of weight ought to do it).

Place the entire assembly into the fridge (or a cooler with sufficient ice to maintain refrigerator temperatures). Every 12 hours or so, flip the package over, and put the weight back on it. You will notice, that no matter how well you wrapped your fish, liquid will seep out of the package. This is a good thing! The salt is not only removing moisture from the fish, but is making the fish an environment that is extremely unfriendly to bacteria and other nasty microorganisms. Depending upon the thickness of the filets, the curing process will take between two to three days. If you cure your steehead for longer than three days, it will be edible, but very salty.

After two or three days (the fish should now have a opaque appearance), your steelhead gravlax is ready to eat! Unwrap, but don't rinse the filets under the faucet. Instead, wipe the filets with a moist paper towel. I also recommend placing the dried-off filets back into the fridge, uncovered, for at least several hours to allow them to dry further.

Steelhead gravlax will keep well (in the fridge in a ziplock bag) for about a week. You can freeze it, but it will lose some of its character. Freezing breaks down the lusciousness. If you've ever had freshly made gravlax, you'll know what I mean.

Now. Take a knife that is sharp enough to shave with, and slice very thinly on the bias. Eat a slice. Was I wrong?

You can go "old school" and place a few slices on a bagel or slice of pumpernickel generously "schmeared" with cream cheese. Or, you can arrange thin slices on a platter with thinly sliced raw onion and capers. A squirt of lemon wouldn't hurt!

You can carry this one step further and cold smoke the filets. Don't hot smoke them, cold smoke them. You're just adding flavor, you don't want to apply heat to this masterpiece!


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