Summer Gravlax for Argentina

So your friends, the Murphys, down the street, who lived in Argentina for awhile and fancy themselves Argentines, are having a party for the World Cup Final. They are making a traditional asado for the afternoon meal, and you want to bring a nice complementary appetizer. What do you settle on? Gravlax, of course.

Sockeye salmon curing

Sockeye salmon curing

While the closest thing to a Scandinavian country in the World Cup would be, I guess, the Netherlands, in today’s globally connected world of culinary mash-ups, there’s no need to be overly legalistic. Plus, if the Murphys were celebrating their Argentine-ness, why shouldn’t I celebrate my one-quarter Swedishness? Most importantly, however, was the beautiful fresh sockeye salmon I’d discovered on sale while out shopping the other day, and was looking for an occasion to cure and serve.

From a plating standpoint, sockeye is the most beautiful salmon — the flesh a deep color of red you will only encounter otherwise in the ripest summer strawberry. For inspiration on my curing, I turned to the Aquavit cookbook by New York chef Marcus Samuelsson — an Ethiopian who grew up with an adopted family in Sweden. Dill doesn’t grow well in our deserty canyon, so I decided to go a bit more Mediterranean on my cure — employing lemon thyme, pepper and onion. Plus, this was futbol — dill is kinda feminine.

Sunday morning of the match, I removed the salmon from the cure and employed my sushi knife to cut it thin. Some grainy German rye brot (shhh, our hosts didn’t just hear that) would provide a nice stage for the salmon while representing the second World Cup finalists in the face of asado. A bit of grainy mustard and some shaved dill pickle (that one’s for you, Marcus Samuelsson!) folded into mayonnaise, a squeeze of lemon and some daikon sprouts on top would finish the canapés. World cup indeed!

The finished gravlax

The finished gravlax

Argentina lost — 0 – 1 — in the end, they couldn’t hold off the final blitzkrieg of the unrelenting Germans, who seemed to have simply outlasted them. But the gravlax was tasty, as was the two types of empanadas from a nearby Argentine market (!!!), and Tracy’s delicious asado served with chimichurra sauce evoked gauchos riding the open pampas. And after all, sports are mostly just an occasion to get together to eat and drink, right??


*    *    *

Lemon thyme, pepper & onion gravlax
serves 4 – 6 as an appetizer

1/2 lb. salmon fillet, tiny bones removed
2 tbsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. fresh lemon thyme leaves
3-4 slices shaved onion
1 tsp. freshly cracked pepper

It is crucial that the salmon for this dish be very fresh — the flesh firm with a clean saline scent and no traces of fishiness.

Brush the salmon fillet with first the salt, then the sugar. Place in a glass container or upon a plate, top with the thyme leaves and the onion shavings, cover and set aside in a cool spot in the kitchen for 4-5 hours.

Move the salmon to the fridge and let cure for 24 – 48 hours.

Remove from the fridge and, using a sushi knife or your sharpest blade, cut thin slices against the grain, ending at the skin (if you’ve used skin-on salmon). Continue until all salmon has been thinly sliced.

Serve with grainy bread and creme fraiche or mustard.


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jessamine in PDX
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 06:18:07

    Sports to me are really and truly only interesting when food and drink are involved. The last game of the Cup was the only one I watched and I was beyond bored until (finally!!) there was a goal. I am just not made for sports, I guess, unless it’s baseball and I’m eating a hot dog and drinking a beer. Also good choice on the lemon thyme — way more masculine than some frilly dill springs!


    • scolgin
      Jul 15, 2014 @ 13:58:47

      I know what you mean — super boring! And it’s all moving so fast you don’t even see the goal when it happens! Hockey is even worse cuz it’s going twice as fast and the puck is the size of a York peppermint patty. I’m a baseball guy — people say it’s slow, but I love the contemplative, chess-like complexity of the game.

      Yeah, the lemon thyme was perfection. Go grab yourself a salmon out of one of those rivers near you and get curing, girl!


  2. Amy Sawelson Landes
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 17:31:24

    Did you mean ‘chimichurra’ sauce?


  3. pal-O
    Jul 16, 2014 @ 15:59:53

    Loving all the Baseball Project albums lately. Great stories in song about heroes, goats, incidents and baseball lore. If you aren’t aware of it, step up to the plate and serve yourself a change up, big and fat floating ball about waist high looking to arc beautifully over left-center!


    • scolgin
      Jul 16, 2014 @ 16:45:52



    • scolgin
      Jul 16, 2014 @ 16:47:45

      Peter Buck seems to be morphing into Jerry Garcia. An appropriate transformation, I guess…


      • pal-O
        Jul 16, 2014 @ 17:10:29

        I think it eventually happens to many of us over time. I’m just trying to avoid morphing into perp walk Nick Nolte! Still have your eye on the mailbox?

      • scolgin
        Jul 16, 2014 @ 19:01:13

        I didn’t want to mention the Nick Nolte thing…

        I’ll go check the mail now.

      • scolgin
        Jul 16, 2014 @ 21:32:40

        Oh, the mail was good to me today! Read the whole post-doctoral decontructivist preface already, getting ready to tackle the introduction next. Super neat, thanks so much my pal-o!

        My aunt and uncle, Deb and Ern (can’t remember if you’ve met them), have been involved in a similar Californios cultural restoration project — albeit musical — with their Alta California Orchestra, check it out:

  4. pal-O
    Jul 16, 2014 @ 21:40:49

    All right!! Glad it got there safe and sound. Truly hope it comes in handy for some of your fine cheffin’ artistry. I figured you would have the ingredients, tools and desire to throwback an early California Mexican meal or few hundred. I owe you so much and hope this serves as a small portion of repay and a token of my friendship for you and fondness for your familia. Let me know how it works out for you!! Maybe see you before I get too old to get around!! 8^)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: