Roasted salmon with gravlax-style marinade

March 28, 2012 § 12 Comments

I am a coveter of ideas.  I’m not proud of this.  It may, in fact, be a death knell of sorts for creativity – how can you be original when you’re wishing you had someone else’s idea?  But it’s awfully hard not to covet it when someone has a really great idea.

It mostly happens when it feels like an idea I potentially could have had.  I hear it, and the idea just. makes. sense.  And my instant reaction is, “maaaaaan (in a kind of nasal, whiney internal voice), why didn’t I think of that?”

Or perhaps even more covetable is a realization of an idea that I actually have had, but mine simply hadn’t had enough time to gestate.  A little premie of an idea still in need of some incubation  and maybe a little knit cap.  It’s inspiring to see someone else’s version of the same idea, well nourished and fully fleshed out into practice.  Inspiring, and a wee bit annoying.

So, the first time I received a text from some of our friends who moved to Portland, OR (luckies!!!), the same friends who had bulk bought hundreds of pounds of squash actually, that contained a photo of a sign from the “Viking Soul Food” food truck, covetousness was definitely what I felt.  Seriously.  Why, exactly, had I not thought of that?  Joel thinks that a Viking Soul Food truck is a pretty dorky idea.  I think it’s pretty dorkily ingenious.  As a scandophile and foodtruckophile, how can I not?

Taking a cue from crepe stands (always a good place to look for inspiration, non?), they serve a variety of sweet or savory stuffed lefses.  On the whole, from what I have gleaned from the ensuing texts from my friends, texts containing descriptions and photos of meals there, plus my own quick perusal of the truck’s website, everything looks scrumptious and clever.  My only beef is with their pronunciation guide.  Uffdah, as they say in Minnesota (but not in Norway).  But, that’s just me being picky, and proper pronunciation is not a prerequisite for enjoying your meal.

Through my brief and terribly unscientific research on them, I also discovered that one of their lefse fillings is grilled salmon that has first been cured with aquavit, as you would with gravlax.  Maaaaaan (whiney voice again).  Why have I never done that?!  I have an ever ready bottle of aquavit in my freezer.  Yet, never before has it been put to such a delectable (and wholesome) sounding use.

One can certainly covet a good idea, but one is even better off doing something with it.  So, I set about to remedy the sad lack of aquavit marinades in my life.  Post haste.  My mind spurring me on as my mom would have when I was little, “fort fort fillijort!”  (Fort – pronounced sort of like foot but with an r before the t – means fast, in case you were wondering.)

I decided I didn’t want to fully cure my salmon, however, in part because I wanted dinner for that evening, not for several days from then, and in part because I wanted the texture of regular cooked salmon.  So, I used the same idea and turned it into a marinade.  The first step is drizzling your salmon with aquavit, a potent caraway flavored spirit.  If you, unlike me, do not keep a bottle stashed in your freezer, you A)are probably not a viking yet, and B)could use any of the following instead: ouzo, pernod, or vodka and a tsp. of crushed caraway seeds.

After the salmon fillet has sat for about ten minutes – enough time to get completely soused when it comes to aquavit, the stuff could lay a charging rhinoceros flat – you massage the salmon with plenty of salt, brown sugar, and a fragrant citrusy, spicy blend of ground cardamom and caraway.  I believe this may be the first time I’ve actually had cardamom on my salmon, but it will absolutely, most certainly, and definitely not be the last.  It is surprising and beautifully floral with the rosy, meaty flesh of the fish.

After your fish has sat like this for a few hours, you give it a shake then cook it up quickly on the grill or in the oven.  I chose the oven because temperatures have yo-yo’ed back into the realm of the appropriate for March.  It’s chilly out there!

Then finally comes the crowning glory, horseradish creme fraiche.  The Viking Soul Food folks recommend horseradish mayo, but I jump at any chance to use horseradish creme fraiche that I can.  The thick cream of the creme fraiche pulls back the reins on horseradish’s kick, leaving you with just its fantastic, woody flavor.  It’s a magnificent compliment to the sweet-salty-succulent salmon.  Drizzle it with gusto, a dapper flick of the wrist and a generous tilt of the spoon.  Your plate may wind up looking like a royal mess, but it will taste like a royal feast.  Just add some sauteed asparagus with mustard , or perhaps a salad and some dilly cucumbers, and said feast is served.  And that, is my idea of a really good idea.

Oh, but before the recipe I have to share two things with you. First, a couple pictures of Squid the puppy…because you asked for it! 🙂  And second, all this month I have been the recipe blogger of the month for the website Via Los Angeles, a very fun fashion, food, and event blog for people who look far more fashionable than I probably ever will be.  The month is nearly over, but you can go back and look through all four of the recipes I contributed, if you wish, and just check out the site in general because it’s pretty cute.

And now, dinner!

Roasted Salmon with Gravlax-style Marinade (serves 6 – this recipe is also easily halved) inspired by The Viking Soul Food Truck

  • 2 1/2 lbs. (wild caught) salmon fillet, skin on
  • 3 Tbs. aquavit (or ouzo, pernod, or vodka.  If using vodka, add a large pinch of crushed caraway seeds)
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs. coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. each ground coriander and cardamom
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup creme fraiche
  • 2 Tbs. prepared horseradish (the grated stuff in a jar)
  • a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  1. Put the salmon fillet skin side down in a baking pan or dish that fits it snugly.  Drizzle the aquavit over it and let it sit for 10 minutes, occasionally tilting it to get the aquavit into a spoon and redrizzling it all over the fish.  In the meantime, combine the brown sugar, sea salt, cumin, and cardamom in a small bowl.
  2. After 10 minutes of aquavit soaking, rub the sugar mixture onto the fish.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (and up to 36 – the longer you let it sit the more cured it will taste, as opposed to marinated).
  3. Preheat your oven to 425F.  Lightly grease another baking pan with olive oil.  Take the fish out of the marinade and shake off any dripping liquid and excess marinade.  Put it into the greased pan and roast it in the oven until it flakes easily with a fork, 12-15 minutes.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together the creme fraiche, horseradish, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Serve the cooked salmon and pass the horseradish cream for everybody to pour over their salmon piece.
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