Gravlax with Fennel from Smörgåsbord by Johanna Kindyall

Gravlax with Fennel / fänkålsgravad lax


Curing fish such as salmon has a long tradition in the Nordic countries. In olden times, gravlax was made by salting salmon and burying it in sand on the beach to ferment. Today, the cure is all done in the refrigerator, and, depending on which texture and flavor you want, the dish can be ready and served within 4 to 24 hours. A shorter cure makes the salmon soft and mild, while a longer cure makes it firmer with a richer flavor. Traditionally, gravlax is enjoyed year-round and served with lemon, cucumber, and Classic Mustard Sauce (page 144). But it’s also delicious on fresh bread topped with Quick Pickled Vegetables (page 152) and Pickled Mustard Seeds (page 142).

Because gravlax is not cooked but rather lightly cured, it’s extra-important to buy good-quality fresh salmon, preferably sushi-grade. You can also freeze non–sushi-grade salmon for at least 48 hours before curing it; this will kill any potential parasites. Just defrost before you start the curing process.


serves 6 or more on a smörgåsbord

2 pounds (900 g) salmon fillet, with skin on
¼ cup (2.25 oz, 64 g) kosher salt (without iodine)
½ cup (3.5 oz, 99 g) sugar
3 tablespoons fennel seeds, toasted and crushed


Fennel blossoms or slivers of fresh fennel, for garnish

Rinse the salmon, pat dry, and remove any bones with a pair of tweezers. Place the fish skin side down on a piece of plastic wrap.

In a small bowl, mix together the salt, sugar, and fennel seeds. Rub some of the mixture all around the fillet. Distribute the rest of the mixture evenly on top of the fish; the mixture should cover the fillet. Wrap the fish tightly with the plastic wrap (or use a plastic bag) and place the package on a plate. Refrigerate and let cure for 48 hours. Turn the package twice a day.

After 2 days, wipe off the fennel seeds and any remaining cure. Pat dry with a paper towel. Starting at the end of the fish, use a fillet knife or any other sharp knife to slice very thin diagonal slices. Arrange the slices neatly on a platter, then decorate with fennel blossoms or thin shavings of fresh fennel.

Gravlax can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

Reprinted from smörgåsbord by Johanna Kindvall (Ten Speed Press, 2017)