Friday, March 12, 2010
I love lox but I don't like to spend a lot of money. Store- or deli-bought lox often comes at ridiculous prices, with a few pitiful coral slivers weighing in at ten bucks or more. One time I went to the Ess-a-Bagel near where I work and a bagel with cream cheese and lox cost $13. What the Christ? Suckers must think I'm made of money.
One day I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. I had the bright idea that I could probably make my own lox spread on the cheap if I bought a little lox, shredded it somehow, then mixed it with cream cheese and herbs. I never did find a recipe for this, mainly because I got distracted by an amazing discovery. It's incredibly easy and, most importantly, amazingly cost-effective to cure your own lox at home. If you use this method you can get mass quantities of lox while saving about 75% of the cost.
First, buy a big piece of salmon. I got a big fillet in Chinatown, it weighed about a pound or two, I don't really remember. This cost me around ten bucks.
Next, lay out a big piece of saran wrap and place the salmon on it, skin side down. No need to remove the skin, it'll peel off later. Mix one cup of salt and two cups of sugar. I just used the salt and sugar straight up, but at this point you can also place any flavorings that you would like on top of the salmon. Pepper, dill and various spices all would all work.
After that, cover the salmon with the salt and sugar mixture. You want to make sure it is totally covered on all sides (except the skin side that touches the saran wrap). The three cups of salt/sugar that I used might have been a little much. I feel like there was a lot of excess material, but who knows. This is raw fish you're dealing with so you want to play it safe and make sure it gets cured. Also, make sure to remove the pin bones, which are little toothpick-sized bones that can be in the fillet. They're pretty easy to spot and remove just by pressing down on the fillet and grabbing them.
Once you've done that, wrap the whole bundle up tight in several layers of saran wrap. Place it on a dish (in case any fluid leaks) and let it sit out for 6 hours or so. After that, place it in the fridge, still on a dish, and let it sit for another 24-48 hours (I've seen different amounts in different recipes). I think mine was in there for maybe 40 more hours or so.
When it comes out, discard all of the excess salt and rinse off the salmon. At this point you'll be able to peel the skin off really easily in one piece. Throw it out, or maybe you know something you can do with cured salmon skin? I certainly don't. Take a very sharp knife and slice the salmon into thin strips. Cut diagonally, starting on top with the side that wasn't the skin and cutting down and towards the thin end of the fillet.
Mine came out delicious and the whole operation, including the cost of the fish and estimated costs for the salt, sugar, and saran wrap used, set me back maybe thirteen bucks. I got a ton of salmon out of it.
Check out this New York Times article for some other variations on lox.