By Angela Denstad Stigeler
There’s nothing more agreeable, after the indulgences of December, than a stylish spread of New Year’s Eve hors d’oeuvres, accompanied by a lean glass of champagne. A few little bites of some delicious flavors can be more satisfying than another main meal, and can be exactly the remedy that’s needed to get us back in line to begin those New Year’s resolutions.
Here’s a simple way to make a very elegant item for your appetizer table: home-cured salmon. In this version, the curing agents of salt and sugar are enhanced with tea leaves, which lend a subtle flavor. Be sure to use the freshest fish available and plan ahead; you’ll have a three-day countdown while your salmon is curing, so don’t drop the ball on getting this done! This simple cure just might be your favorite way to turn the page on another year.
A variation on gravadlax using tea leaves instead of dill, you’ll need to allow three days for the fish to cure.
A two-pound salmon fillet, scaled or skin removed
5 tablespoons course sea salt
2 tablespoons light Muscovado sugar or raw sugar
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
4-5 tablespoons Lapsang Souchong, Oolong, Jasmin or other distinctive tea leaves
rye bread, toast points or crackers, for serving
optional garnishes: cream cheese, slices of lemon, capers, finely chopped red onion, sprigs of fresh dill
Rinse the salmon and check it over for bones, removing any you may find with a tweezers. Pat the fish dry and set aside. In a small bowl, mix the salt, sugar, pepper and tea.
Line a rectangular glass dish, big enough to fit the piece of fish, with plastic wrap, leaving enough overhanging to cover the salmon. Spread half the curing mixture on the bottom of the dish, lay the salmon on the tea mixture and spread the rest of the tea mixture over the fish to evenly coat. Secure the plastic wrap tightly around the salmon. Place a small cutting board or plate directly onto the fish, making sure it doesn’t rest on the sides of the dish. Place a weight (some heavy cans or jars work well) on top to press the salmon and refrigerate for three days, turning the fish over once each day.
To serve, scrape off the curing ingredients and drain off the liquid. Slice the salmon with a thin, sharp knife and serve on toast points or with crackers. Garnish as desired.