This year, break-fast will be bagels and lox. I know Amiee has a whole side of cow on the cooker and I love a good brisket as much as anyone. But I wanted something that would be fun to make and would allow me to bring it all together after coming back from family services in the late afternoon (the joy of children is going to the short services). Since the bagels kettle and bake in less than an hour and the lox is already cured all I have left to do is slice some veggies.
There will be cheese cake for dessert, but more on that later.
Nova lox is yet another one of those little reminders of how poor Jews of Eastern Europe were. Clearly fresh fish was out of the question. Think of the fish that is associated with Jewish food. Smoked whitefish, gefilte fish (which is the tuna helper of appetizers) and of course lox. All of them preserved and all of them far from the caviar and Dover sole that might have graced a wealthier table. Lox has Scandinavian origins but I am not going to get in the middle of any arguments between Swedes, Danes and Norwegians as to who cured the first of these tasty fish.
As I mentioned before when I was a kid we would get our lox at Benjy’s deli. We would buy about 1/4 lb at a crack and it was pretty expensive. When I lived in Israel I realized that aside from canned, lox was the only form of salmon available. In Hebrew it is simply called salmon (say it with a slight Latin accent with an emphasis on the second syllable) Whether it was in the markets or on the menu that word always meant cured or smoked salmon. A pretty typical dish was pasta in a heavy cream sauce with chopped lox.
When I was an Israeli tour guide I would often drop groups in Jerusalem and then make my way home to the kibbutz I lived on. On my way to the bus terminal I would pass through the cavernous Mahane Yehuda markets. I would make my way up the crowded aisles past the fish mongers, butchers and bakeries stopping to pick up a few things to make dinner with. A bit of lox, fresh basil and a bottle of wine made for a nice meal in my own kitchen for the first time in a week.
If I am making bagels (and they are proofing in the fridge as I write this) then I should have some lox to go with it. Since I live in a part of the world where fresh wild salmon is almost a birthright it seems only right to make my own. Cured salmon is a pretty easy thing to do, like most cures it only requires time.
Recipe after the break.
A 1 lb piece of salmon (fresh, wild and well colored)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 oz kosher salt
1 tb toasted peppercorns
5-6 sprigs of fresh dill
Mix sugars and salt together spread half in the bottom of a non-reactive vessel big enough to hold the fish, but small enough to hold the resulting juices. If this isn’t possible use foil or plastic to create a small cradle inside the dish. Place salmon (skin down) on the cure and then cover the top with the rest of the cure mix. Place dill and peppercorns on top and the cover with plastic wrap.
Once this is done place another plate or dish on top of the salmon. This presses the fish and helps to speed up the removal of water. Place in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Remove, using a spoon scoop up the brine and pour over the top of the fillet. Replace wrapping and weight and return to the refrigerator for 24 additional hours.
After a total of 48 hours the fish should feel firm to the touch, if it still feels squishy then allow to cure an additional 12-24 hours. Once it feels good remove from the brine and rinse under running water. Now, place on a wire rack and return to the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. This allows the outside to dry off. If you wanted to smoke your salmon you could but you can eat it either way.
Slice it on a bias, very thin and serve with capers, cream cheese and of course fresh bagels. Lox will keep well in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.