Mile End Deli Lox
(With permission from Noah Bernamoff of the Mile End Deli Cookbook)
Curing salmon is all about the fat. We use king salmon for making lox at the deli, and always the farmed variety, not wild. That’s because wild salmon tends to be too lean for curing. Too little fat will cause the salt mixture to “burn” the surface of the salmon and stop the cure from penetrating. Allowing the fillet to rest for a day after rinsing off the curing mixture enables the fish to continue “cooking”—that is, it lets the curing compounds distribute themselves evenly throughout the salmon. Using good kosher salt for this recipe is absolutely essential.
1/3 cup whole black peppercorns
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt
1 bunch of dill
1 two-pound boneless king salmon fillet, with skin
Combine the peppercorns, sugar, and salt in a bowl and stir to combine. Place 2 or 3 sprigs of the dill in the bottom of a nonreactive baking dish, and sprinkle about 1⁄4 cup of the salt mixture evenly over the bottom of the dish.
Make 2 or 3 shallow cuts in the skin of the salmon fillet. Place the salmon, skin side down, on top of the salt and dill, and place a few more sprigs of dill on top of the salmon. Sprinkle the salmon all over with another 1⁄4 cup of the salt mixture. Reserve the remaining salt mixture. Loosely cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight.
Carefully pour off any liquid that has accumulated in the baking dish. Add another 1⁄4 cup of the salt mixture to the bottom of the dish, and sprinkle 1⁄4 cup more over the salmon. Replace the dill sprigs with new ones if they’ve wilted. Cover the dish and refrigerate overnight.
Repeat this process 2 more times over 2 more days.
On the fifth day, remove the salmon, rinse it thoroughly, and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the salmon on a small drying rack set inside a clean baking dish or over a couple of layers of paper towels. Refrigerate, uncovered, overnight.
To serve, slice very thinly and carefully at a shallow angle, working from the front of the fillet toward the tail.
Makes about 1 1⁄2 pounds