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Pastrami Spiced Gravlax (or Smoked Salmon)

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Pastrami Spiced Gravlax (or Smoked Salmon)

Serves 6 as Appetizeror 4 as Main Dish.

This recipe makes a great cured salmon. Then it can either be turned into a Pastrami-spiced gravlax or into fantastic smoked salmon. The main requirement is to buy a very good fresh piece of salmon to start with, with firm flesh and fresh smell.


  • 2 lb center-cut salmon fillet with skin
  • 1-1/2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 T Bourbon or rum
  • 1/2 c kosher salt
  • 4 T raw sugar, such as turbinado, or light brown sugar
  • 2 T coarsely cracked black pepper
  • 1-1/2 c coarsely chopped cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1 c coarsely chopped parsley leaves and stems
  • 2 shallots, minced

Pastrami Glaze

  • 3 T molasses
  • 3 bay leaves, torn into large pieces
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1-1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1-1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1-1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1-1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

1. Cure the salmon: Rub the salmon fillet all over with the lemon juice and bourbon and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the salt, raw sugar, cracked black pepper, cilantro, parsley and shallots. Sprinkle half of this mixture in a glass baking dish that will snuggly fit the salmon. Lay the salmon skin side down on the salt mixture. Cover the salmon with the rest of the salt mixture and rub it in. Cover the salmon loosely with plastic wrap. Weigh the fish down with another baking dish or a flat piece of cardboard with a few heavy cans on top. Refrigerate for 48 hours or until the fish releases a lot of liquid and feels firm instead of squishy if pressed with your finger on it’s thickest part. If not, then leave it to cure some more in the liquid.

2. Make the Pastrami Glaze: In a very small saucepan or in the microwave, combine the molasses, bay leaves and cayenne and bring to a simmer over low heat(or microwave in a small measuring cup for 20 seconds at a time and stir, then repeat). Let cool to room temperature.

3. In a small skillet, lightly toast the caraway and coriander seeds over moderate heat, shaking the pan, until fragrant. Transfer the seeds to a mortar or a spice grinder (coffee grinder) and let cool completely. Crush the seeds as finely as possible. Stir in the paprika and ground pepper.

4. Remove the gravlax from the cure and rinse under cold water. Dry well and set it on a plate, skin side down. Brush the gravlax with the molasses; pick off the bay leaves. Sprinkle the ground spices evenly over the fillet. Refrigerate the gravlax uncovered for at least 12 hours or overnight.

5. Once ready to serve, remove the skin using a sharp knife (or you can leave it on if you don't mind it). It should come off easily. Using a long, sharp knife, cut the gravlax crosswise into very thin slices. Arrange the slices on plates and serve. I like it with good onion rye, shallots and cream cheese. It will last wrapped tightly in plastic for about a week in the refrigerator.

For Smoked Salmon variation:

Omit the glaze and the pastrami spices. After removing from the cure, rinsing and drying, let the salmon dry uncovered for 6-12 hours on a plate skin side down in the refrigerator to develop a pellicle. Then hot-smoke it on the stove top (I use an old wok) or in an outdoor smoker over apple or cherry wood until flaky. Should take about 20 minutes under hot smoke.

Keywords: Fish, Easy, Hors d'oeuvre, Appetizer

( RG1684 )

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