Step 7: Start graved laks

Graved laks (aka gravlaks) is ridiculously easy, but few people seem to realize this, so it always gets big oohs and ahhs at the smørgåsbord. The keys are to buy really good salmon (wild, of course) and start at least 5 days in advance. We make a two-fillet batch for the smørgåsbord. Fresh salmon (like any fish) should be firm and not smell fishy. Farmed salmon is evil, both nutritionally and environmentally, so even though it’s a lot more expensive, always hold out for wild salmon.

To start, roast a bunch of anise seeds in a pan, then add 4 parts salt to 3 parts sugar and stir. You need enough of this stuff to cover both sides of both fillets. For two fillets, I used about 2 C of stuff.

Rinse and pat dry the fillets. Feel along the bone-line to find any pin bones needing to be removed, grab hold with a small, sprung needle-nosed pliers, and yank out. This is the way the pros do it, and it’s much easier and tidier than any other method. Be sure to wash, dry, and oil the pliers when you’re done.

Next, cover the fleshy sides of both fillets with the stuff, then cover again with chopped fresh dill. The idea of graved laks is that the stuff is going to suck out the water from the fish as a way of preserving it. Stick the fleshy sides together and then use whatever you have left to cover the skin sides. Use the discarded dill stems to make a rack in the bottom of a pan, plop the fishes on top, cover with plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge. Weight the salmon down by piling whatever stuff you had to move out of the way in the refrigerator on top of the fish; this helps press out the juices.

For the next several days, every 12 hours you need to drain off the juice, turn the pair of fillets over, and put back in the refrigerator. The pictures (above) are after the first 24 hours; notice all the salmon juice in the pan!