This gravlax recipe comes by way of my good friend Kirsten Petersen, a longtime Solvang resident and local caterer who died in December of 2010.
She was known for most of the Santa Ynez Valley’s celebrity functions, including the Vintners Festival brunch, and wine dinners for Byron, Firestone and Fess Parker wineries. Among the many recipes she shared with me, the gravlax has got to be one of my favorites!
Gravlax on Pumpernickel Bread With Mustard Dill Sauce
5 lbs. midsection of salmon or whole salmon
5 Tbsp. sugar
5 Tbsp. coarse salt
3 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. coarsely ground pepper
4 c. coarsely chopped dill (stem and all)
Look for a shiny fish with clear eyes, shiny gills, fin and flesh that feels firm and bouncy to touch, etc. (If you buy just part of the fish, buy the midsection.) Remove head, tail and fins. Filet fish in half following the bone. Remove all bones. Rinse, pat dry and with your fingers feel for all the small bones. All bones should be pulled out with tweezers.
Mix together sugar, salt and pepper. Put a layer of chopped dill and salt mixture in bottom of glass or stainless steel rectangular dish large enough for salmon. Place one half of salmon on top of dill skin side down. Evenly sprinkle additional salt mixture on cut side of both pieces of fish. Cover salmon piece in dish will dill. Place second half of fish on top and rub with remaining salt mixture. Cover with rest of dill. Cover with food wrap.
Place a weight on top of salmon and refrigerate at least 3 days. The salmon should be turned and basted with the marinade once or twice daily.
To serve, carefully scrape pepper and dill from salmon. Slice thinly (like smoked salmon.) Butter slices of pumpernickel bread. Cut in three “points.” Cover with paper thin slices of gravlax. Top with mustard dill sauce. Leftover gravlax may be frozen.
Mustard Dill Sauce
1/2 c. sweet mustard (Gulden’s spicy brown)
1 1/2 tsp. wine vinegar
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil (not olive)
1/4 c. fresh dill (finely chopped)
In a processor mix mustard, vinegar and sugar. Slowly add oil. Stir in chopped dill.
Pair the gravlax with Fess Parker’s 2016 Rodney’s Vineyard Dry Riesling -- Santa Barbara County. This light straw-colored dry riesling is a beautiful wine aromatically showing notes of gardenia with hints of ginger, wet stone, citrus, lime and white rose. On the palate, you will find citrus flavors of lime and lemon zest combined with green apple as well as a light mineral character, backed by a lively, crisp, sleek texture. The 2016 vintage was harvested with 100% Rodney's Vineyard grapes (Blocks B1 & A), located on the Fess Parker home ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley, and were fermented and aged in 100% stainless steel tanks.