A Swedish Traditional Meal
As Eva Morrill, from Knivsta, Sweden, taught Lindsay Sterling
in Portland, ME, Nov. 2010
Active time: 1 hr
Total time: 2 days!
Serves 10 for dinner, more as an appetizer
TWO DAYS BEFORE THE MEAL
1 whole side of salmon
1/2 cup Sugar in the Raw (she used Demerara)
1/2 cup course salt (she used Mediterranean sea salt)
1 Tbsp crushed white pepper
½ bunch dill
Start two days before you want to eat. Mix your curing spices (salt, sugar and pepper) together in a bowl. Put the fillet skin side down on a cutting board and cut crosswise into two roughly equal pieces. Pack curing spices onto all the pink flesh with your hands, and then put dill fronds on top of each piece. Put one piece of fish skin side down inside a Ziploc or plastic bag that will hold the liquid that the salt will draw out of the fish over time. Now place the other piece of salmon on top of the first so you have a salmon sandwich with the skins on the outside, flesh on the inside and the dill and curing spices in the middle. Close the bag, and enclose that bag in another so you save your fridge from salmon juice run-off. The next day, flip the fish over. Give it one more day and it’s cured!
1 HOUR BEFORE THE MEAL
Potatoes Au Gratin
2 cups whole milk
Dash fresh cracked pepper (she likes mixed varieties)
1 ¾ pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly (she used a Cuisinart attachment)
1 ½ cups roughly chopped leeks (about 1 medium leek)
2-3 cups mixed grated cheese of your choice
Preheat oven to 400. In large pot on medium high heat, heat milk, add pepper and salt, and potatoes. Cook with lid on, stirring occasionally to prevent the potatoes from sticking, lowering temp if necessary to prevent the milk from boiling over. Once the milk has thickened (about ten minutes), stir in leeks and cheese. Generously butter a shallow ovenproof casserole dish, transfer potatoes into it, and cook in the oven 35-40 minutes until bubbly and lightly browned on top.
4 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
½ c. olive oil
1 Tbsp dried dill
In a small mixing bowl combine mustard, sugar, and vinegar. Pour olive oil into the mixture in a slow stream while whisking it in so that the mixture becomes a thick, cloudy dressing as opposed to the much looser, liquid-y oil and vinegar.
Bringing it All Together
1. Take the salmon out of the fridge and discard the liquid and plastic bags. Rinse each piece in cold water, gently pat dry, and place on cutting board. Starting with the thick end, slice salmon into thin slices crosswise and on a diagonal. This allows you to get the biggest, most beautiful slices. The best knife to use is called a salmon slicer. It’s long and thin with shallow divots milled into the sides to keep food from sticking to the blade. If you don’t have this, you are a very special person if you can figure out how to get beautiful slices. Your home cooking is beautiful no matter what it looks like.
2. Sauté spinach with just enough olive oil to give it some shine and keep it from sticking to the pan. It’s done quickly – as soon as its dark green and small.
3. Put a scoop of potatoes on each plate, a couple spoonfuls of vinaigrette next to it, a small pile of spinach next to that and then 5 or 6 gorgeous (or not so gorgeous!) slices of salmon.
4. Cheers – to being alive and having each other. You could not exist you know.
Who Knew What You Can Do? (Extra Notes)
You can freeze cured salmon. It keeps fine in the fridge for about a week, and in the freezer for about 3 months. Before freezing, cut your sides into sizes you want to use later so you’re not freezing and thawing a large piece over and over. Wrap smaller pieces individually and seal all in larger Ziploc, sucking out the air.
You can freeze fresh dill! She Used frozen fresh dill to sandwich in between the salmon for curing and it worked great. How many times have I thrown extra dill away? Sheesh. Now I know! Go ahead and freeze it for using in curing, making dressings or cooking.
You can make the potatoes and dressing a couple days before when you cure the salmon so your day of the meal is pretty darn carefree. All you have to do then is reheat the potatoes, sauté the spinach and slice the salmon. No biggie!
You can serve the cured salmon as an appetizer on top of buttered slices of German rye bead, topped with teaspoon of mustard vinaigrette.
I would love to hear from you! Please email with comments, questions, suggestions... firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright Lindsay Sterling 2010
The Most Alive Salmon
By Lindsay Sterling
“But you can’t get fresh fish anywhere in Portland on Monday,” The Swede said. We were having a scheduling conflict. She had offered to teach me (and you, dear readers) how to make her favorite dish from Sweden, cured salmon with mustard vinaigrette and potatoes au gratin. Think! What strings did I have in the world? “What if,” I proposed, “I show up at your house at 10:00am Monday with the most alive salmon in Portland?” She laughed.
I get Ian Hayward on the phone. He’s the fishmonger at Rosemont Market. “She’s right,” he explained. Commercial fishermen don’t fish on weekends and so any fish you’re getting on Monday was caught at the earliest Friday, most likely Thursday, and before if overseas. “Your best bet would be to get a whole fish.” It keeps better that way. He called his people and in two minutes had the most alive whole salmon in Portland with my name on it. Monday morning I show up in the West End at Eva Morrill’s door with a two-foot fish with clear eyes and firm flesh. I think we both hooted. It’s not everyday. I say, “I hope filleting salmon is like riding a bike because it’s been 20 years since I did this.”
About that long ago, Eva’s story goes, she came to the U.S. travel, but something happened and, to her mother’s dismay, she never went back to live in Sweden. One night at a Chicago restaurant, Metropolis, a friend introduced her to a man named John. The two started talking, dated, and fell in love. Like so many born-here Americans, he asked her to cook Swedish meatballs. “What are Swedish meatballs?” Eva wondered. Then she figured: oh, they’re just meatballs! The Lignonberries, cardamon bread and potato sausages she knew so well – they were all Swedish food! Who knew? And so she found Swedish grocery stores to find her now-special groceries. Then something horrible happened. John and her were living together by this time. Someone called from the hospital. He was going straight into surgery. A giant, bloody, malignant-looking tumor had grown straight through his kidney. Then, at just over thirty years old, John died four times on the operating table. The white-faced surgeon explained to Eva afterward that John’s liver had exploded during the operation and cancer cells surely spread everywhere. He was sorry, but if John woke up, he had less than six months.
When John came to, Eva said to him, “This is not how your life was meant to end,” not knowing who exactly her sources were. “You have to believe you’re going to be okay.” Then, pumped up on morphine, tubes coming out all over, right there, he proposed. During the five days they waited for the results of the cancer tests, the two planned their wedding. They’d elope in Mexico and throw a party in Chicago.
The surgeon cried when he delivered the results of John’s tests. He’d never seen anything like this in his life. John was cancer-free. When John returned to their apartment, he saw his life anew. What he once thought was being money manager in a big city now looked like a rat race. He asked Eva: “You want to move to Maine?” They went through with their wedding plans, moved to Maine, had three kids and lived, really lived. The gravlax, by the way, turned out awesome. This dish is a damn good reminder: always go for the most alive option.
copyright Lindsay Sterling 2010