“Sunday brunch growing up in my parents’ house was a family affair,” Matthew Wexler writes. “My parents would drop my brother and me off at Sunday school, and while we struggled to learn Hebrew, they’d dash off to the local Jewish deli to buy smoked fish, pickled herring and lox. I’d layer the thinly sliced cured salmon on a freshly baked bagel and slather it with cream cheese—absolute heaven!”
“It took several experiments (and a lot of gin) to create our signature cure. A lot of factors go into curing salmon, including the thickness of the fish and the type of salt you’re using. Most important, use a high-quality, sushi-grade salmon from a reputable store or fishmonger. This is a wow-factor dish, so be sure to invite guests that will appreciate your seventy-two-hour endeavor.”
2-pound salmon fillet, skin-on
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 cup kosher salt
½ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons gin
1 cup fresh dill fronds, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest, finely chopped
Rinse and pat dry salmon fillet, removing any pin bones, if necessary. Crack peppercorns with the bottom of a heavy skillet, and then combine with salt, sugar, gin, dill fronds and lemon zest in a bowl. Layer a sheet pan with plastic wrap, followed by half of the salt mixture. Place the salmon skin-side down on the salt mixture, and then top with the remaining mixture, making sure to pack down so that the salmon’s surface area is covered. Top with plastic wrap, followed by another sheet pan to create a level base. Weigh down with large cans and refrigerate for 3 days.
If you’re starting with a thinner piece of salmon that’s less than 1-inch thick, check after 2 days. The fish will have released liquid and become firm, but should still have a bit of give. To serve, rinse thoroughly and pat dry. Slice very thinly on the diagonal, using a long, thin and extremely sharp knife.
Salmon can be stored up to 3 days after curing.