Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas! Gravlax for Christmas Eve!

I had wanted to try and make my own Gravlax for years...and I finally did! Gravelax is a Scandinavian specialty: a fillet of salmon cured for three days in salt and sugar, dill and a few spices! I serve it with home made blinis.
You do not need Christmas to eat this either...any time of the year for me!

**** Prepare 3 days ahead ****

Salmon Gravlax with Dill

One 3-lb fillet of salmon, skin on
8 Tbsp coarse salt
8 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp whole peppercorns (I use a mix of peppers)
1 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
1 bunch of fresh dill

Place the salmon on a sheet of plastic wrap (in a sheet pan, to prevent the juices to leak into the fridge later), skin side down, and with the help of tweezers, remove all the bones that are left in the fish.

Heat the peppercorns and the coriander seeds in a small skillet to release all the fragrances.
Remove from the heat and place in a dry and clean dish towel. Crush the spices with a mallet, or, if you own one, with a mortar and pestle.
Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the sugar and salt. Add the spices and mix well.

Spread the salt mixture evenly on top of the salmon, covering all the flesh of the fish. On top of this, spread the dill evenly all over.

Wrap the fish very tightly with the plastic film and refrigerate for three days. Do not hesitate to wrap it several times around. While it is in the fridge, you do not need to do anything!

After the thee days, remove the fish from he fridge; remove the plastic film and quickly rinse under cold water. Place on a cutting board and dry with paper towels.

Slice the fish very thinly (knife needs to be really sharp), almost horizontally, starting at the tail.

Serve on top of blinis, with Creme fraiche, chopped red onion, capers and lemon.

Update (February 2015)

There is another version of the Gravelax that I have been making more often now.

3 lbs Filet of Salmon
150 grams sugar
300 grams coarse salt
3 Tbsp peppercorns, crushed
7 cl vodka
1 bunch of fresh dill, chopped

Prepare the salmon as previously.
Mix all the other ingredients, with half the dill, in a bowl.
Spread on top of the salmon. Cover tightly with plastic film.
Refrigerate for 24 hours.

When ready, rinse under cold water to get rid of the extra salt.
Pat dry and cover with the remaining dill. Cover again with plastic film and refrigerate for at least another 6 hours.

Serve sliced thin with blinis.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hot Dip

I have made this dip many times and never get tired of it! You can serve this dip for any occasion and best of all... you can prepare it days ahead and freeze it! Just take it out of the freezer and reheat in the oven before serving.

Hot Crab and Artichoke Dip

Prep. time: 45 mn
Servings:  8

24 oz frozen artichoke hearts
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup half and half, or milk
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2+ oz Parmesan cheese, grated
Juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 Tbsp pickled Jalapeno chile, drained and chopped finely
1/4 tsp celery salt
1 lb lump crab meat, picked over
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the frozen artichokes in a heavy skillet, over medium heat, until soft - about 5 minutes. If there is water remaining in the pan, drain well. Set aside to cool.When cooled, chop small.

In the same skillet, saute the red bell pepper with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
Stirr in the chopped artichokes and transfer to a bowl. Set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet, over medium heat. Add the flour and stir to make a roux, about 3 minutes. Add half and half , or milk, in a stream. Whisk the mixture and bring to a boil. Keep whisking fr about 3 minutes, until thickened.
Remove from the heat and stir in the artichoke/red pepper mixture. Add the scallions, 1/3 cup of Parmesan, the lemon juice, the jalapeno, celery salt and salt and pepper if needed.
Gently stirr in the crab meat.

Preheat the oven to 375F.
Transfer the dip to a baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
Bake until bubbling, about 25 minutes.

Serve hot with Pita bread wedges.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I love dishes from North Africa. Couscous and tagines are among the best known, from Algeria, Tunisia and Morrocco.
Their rich flavors and spices fill the kitchen of exotic smells.

Tagines are slow cooked stews. The meat is braised at low temperature and then cooks covered, still at low temperature, for a couple of hours, depending on the meat used.
The tagine dish is a clay pot in two parts: a round bottom, a couple of inches high, and a top shaped as a cone to allow the condensation from cooking to fall back to the bottom. The result is a tender meat and rich sauce.

Traditionally, the tagine is served on its own, but I like to serve it with couscous.

The dish I made this  weekend is inspired by "Chocolate and Zucchini" (Clothilde Dusoulier), one of my favorite cookbook.
The deeps flavors of the north-African spices mixed with the rich taste of lamb and the sweetness of the pears make this dish truly unique.

This dish is best made a day or two in advance!!

Lamb Tagine with Pears

2 3.5 lbs legs of lamb, deboned

4 medium onions, sliced
5 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tsp of ground ginger
1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg (from whole nuts, it is so much more flavorful!)
1 tsp of whole cumin seeds (if you cannot find cumin seeds, use caraway seeds)
1 tsp of ground chili powder
1 tsp of ground cinnamon

8 pears, ripe
1 1/2 cup blanched almonds

Trim the fat off the meat and cut it in 11/2-inch pieces. Pat dry with paper towel.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet, or dutch oven. Working in batches, brown the meat on medium low heat. When all sides are brown, remove the meat from the skillet and set aside. De-glaze the juices by adding a little water in the still hot pan, scrape the bottom and sides and transfer to a bowl for later use.
Repeat until all the meat is done.

Using the same pan, heat some olive oil and add the onions, still on medium low heat. Stir and cover. Cook until  soft, stirring regularly. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
Transfer to a bow.

Mix all the spices in a small bowl. Heat them in the skillet, without any oil, to release the fragrances. Add the meat and then the onions-garlic mix. Add the juices from the meat that you set aside earlier; mix well. Add water to cover the meat about half way.
Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook on really low for at least 2 hours.

While the tagine is cooking, peal, core and quarter the pears.
Heat about one tablespoon of butter in a skillet. Add half the pears and cook, turning them on all sides, until soft and somewhat translucent. When done, set aside on a baking sheet; repeat with remaining pears.

Toast the almonds in a small pan, and set aside until ready to serve.

If you are planning to serve couscous with the tagine, now is a good time to prepare: bring same volume of water as you have of couscous to boil in a shallow sauce pan, with salt. When the water is boiling, turn the heat off and add olive oil. Add the couscous and stir. Let stand five minutes and then separate the grains with a wooden spoon. This can stay like this for a while until you are ready to eat! Just reheat quickly on the stove.

When the tagine is almost ready, reheat the pears in the oven, at 350 for about 5 to 8 minutes.

Transfer the meat in a serving dish. Place the pears on the perimeter of the dish and sprinkle with the toasted almonds.

NOTES: You can if you own a Tagine dish, transfer the meat in the dish, cover it and cook in the oven for a couple of hours, on low heat (275).