I’ll go over this quickly, because I don’t want to forget how to put this dish together while the experience is still fresh in my head. I will add that salmon prepared this way easily rose to number 1 in my short list of salmon preparations that I love.
Here is a general list of ingredients:
(It serves 2-3 people)
1 pound of fresh coho salmon, skin on.
1 tbsp kosher salt (smoked salts work well too)
1 tbsp brown sugar.
1 tbsp vegetable oil
A bunch of fresh spinach (about 200g)
Salt and pepper.
1 Tbsp Tamari
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp sharp rice vinegar or champagne vinegar.
if you haven’t done this before there’s nothing to it. Adding a layer of salt and sugar on the flesh side and allowing the salmon to cure in the fridge for 3 days will do the trick. No need to press the sugar/salt into the meat, simply sprinkle it over the fish.
I vacuum sealed the fish and place it in the fridge. Turned it over a few times during the curing period. If you have nice delicate herbs like dill or chervil add them in the baggie chopped if you like.
In 3 days the cure will reach equilibrium and you’re ready to get cooking. The salt should have denatured the fish by then. Oh, by the way, if you follow these exact same steps but choose a skinless salmon fillet, that’s proper lox right there. Get that bagel and cream cheese ready. Go to town.
If you don’t have a fish spatula, do yourself a favor and go get one. It’s probably ok working with normal spatulas, but a fish spatula allows you more control/precision especially when dealing with very tender fish. Anyways, I recommend it.
One thing worth mentioning about the salt levels in lox. They might be slightly high. I mean, we’re curing it using salt so ending up with too much salt in the fish might happen. Now, there’s no need to worry. In fact, I thought the salmon was too salty in my first trial. Delicious but too salty. I placed the remainder of the uncooked salmon in a plastic container, laid it flat, added fresh water over it until barely covered and returned it to the fridge for 12 hours. The brine reached a new equilibrium which was less salty and just perfect. How to determine how long to desalt something for? hmm… practice a bunch and you will eventually get good at it.
Crispy salmon skin:
Before doing anything else, make sure you cut up the fish fillet into the final serving size portions. You don’t wanna have to slice into cooked fish. It might crumble, break, tear, etc. Plus, the whole fillet will want to curl more than the smaller pieces. The effects of the skin shrinking when cooking will be more evident the larger the pieces are. You could score the skin with a really sharp knife… there are a few things that can be done but my personal recommendation is to get the fish pre-cut into the serving sizes before cooking.
For crisping up fish skin… I would also suggest working on a non stick pan… BUT if you don’t have one… well, then you’re gonna have to make your pan is well-seasoned, make sure you make it go really hot to the point where the oil (vegetable or grapeseed oil) polymerizes around 400F and then bring down the heat to medium. The pan is ready and the fish might stick to it at first, but will be later released once it is crispy. Takes about 3 to 4 minutes. Don’t try to pry the fish against its will, just leave it on the pan for at least 3 minutes and check with your spatula to see how the skin is doing. Takes some practice and a few destroyed fish fillets along the way. When you work on a non stick pan, the cooking times might be a little longer, there’s no need to cook as hot. And there’s zero risk of fish sticking to the pan. Your choice.
Do I flip the fish once the skin is crispy? Nope.. I mean you could but the whole point of this post is to not cook the salmon throughly and let the lox texture shine. There will be a cooking gradient obviously but there’s something beautiful about the textural contrast between the crips and the cured sides.
The spinach cream:
Make sure you rinse the spinach under cold running water to remove any grit. Trim any thick tough stalks. Blanch the spinach in boiling water for about a minute. Strain and add to a blender. Add about 1 Tbsp of water. Try to get the blender going, pulsing and pushing the spinach down into it as needed. Takes a bit of work and patience but it’s worth it. Don’t add too much water. It’s not a soup. Add a little olive oil, and a little vinegar. Once the blending gets going adjust the seasoning. Here I like to work by tasting. Adjusting oil, vinegar, salt and pepper until I’m happy. Strain through a chinoise or a really fine strainer to make sure your cream is silky. You can add a knob of butter to finish it off. Up to you.
Place all the ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium heat and reduce until it bubbles. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. It needs to reach that glaze consistency we all love, return to the stove if it still too fluid.
Bring it all together. I used bowls to serve this. Added about 2 Tbsp of cream spinach to the centre of each bowl. Place the cooked fish cubes over the cream. You can glaze them before plating or after. I chose to glaze after using a soft brush. Added some EVOO over the cream and it was done.
This dish might sound like having way too many steps, but that’s because I talk a lot. If you’re an avid cook, most of the stuff here should be second nature and there’s really nothing difficult about making this dish at all. If this is your first time in front of a raw piece of salmon, well, if you pull it off, that should feel really good! self back patting action right there.
By the way, the word lox is an americanization of the yiddish word for salmon: laks. I googled that.