Lunchbreak: House Cured Salmon Gravlax with roasted fennel, minted fava bean salad & charred brioche

Michael Tsonton


200 Ravinia Park Rd.

Highland Park, IL


House Cured Salmon Gravlax

with roasted fennel, minted fava bean salad & charred brioche

serves 4-6


For the salmon gravlax:

1 each 2-3 pounds filet of Salmon – Ora King, Verlasso or Wild

4 ounces (1/2 cup) Aquavit

1 cup sugar

6 ounces (3/4 cup) course sea salt; Baleine brand is easy to locate at better grocery stores.

1 bunch fresh dill – chopped

For the roasted fennel:

2 each fennel bulbs – topped - sliced into ½” slices – reserve the fennel fronds

Extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the fava beans:

5 pounds fava beans – removed from the pod

For the charred brioche:

4 slices of thick sliced brioche – crust removed

Extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

For the dish:

6 each red radishes – cut brunoise/diced and soaked in cold water

8-10 large mint leaves – cut chiffonade

Extra virgin olive oil

Fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Edible marigold flowers (optional)


Salmon gravlax:

Combine the sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and rough chop the dill, removing the rough bottoms and discard. Lay the salmon filet out on a large piece of plastic wrap, twice the length of the fish. Don’t detach the plastic wrap from the box. It makes it easier to handle. Place the salmon filet on the plastic wrap skin side down. Gently pour the Aquavit over the fish and massage it into the fish. Cover the fish in the sugar/salt mixture making sure to place a thicken amount of the mixture at the thickest part of the fish and less at the tail. Then cover the salmon with the chopped dill. Now wrap the filet with the plastic wrap tightly using additional plastic as needed.

Placed the fish skin side up in a shallow pan large enough to hold it flat and place another like sized pan a top the fish. Weight the filet down with some cans and place in the very back of the refrigerator where it’s coldest.

After 12 hours, remove the fish and rewrap it, leaving all the sugar/salt mixture and dill on the fish. You’ll notice a lot of liquid in the plastic. That’s the sugar/salt mixture doing its job a curing the fish.

Place the fish back in the pan, this time skin side down. Add the second pan a top and weight it down again with the cans, returning the fish to the same spot in the fridge.

Again, after 12 hours – remove the fish from the refrigerator. Unwrap the salmon and lightly press down on the middle and thick part of the filet. It should feel a little firm and not raw. If so, using your washed hands, scrap all the remaining sugar/salt mixture from the fish. If the fish still seems a little raw, rewrap it and return it to cure for another 6-8 hours.

Once the fish has been gently cleaned from the sugar/salt, place it on a wire rack with a pan underneath and return it to the fridge to air dry. This is key to creating the right mouth feel and allowing the fish to finish its curing process. You should plan on at least 3 days in the refrigerator.

Once the air-drying is complete, wrap the fish in plastic wrap. It will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge. But you’ll eat it faster!

Roasted fennel:

Pre-heat the oven to 450F. Toss the sliced fennel, the evoo (extra virgin olive oil) and salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and lay out on a sheet tray. Roast the fennel in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until the fennel is golden brown, even a touch darker. Rough chop and reserve at room temp.

Fava beans:

Bring a pot of well salted water to a boil and prepare a bowl of ice water too.  Blanch the fava beans in the boiling salted water for 2 minutes and then move them to the ice bath to cool. Drain the fava beans and then peel them by picking the top off and squeezing the bean out of the light green outer skin. Discard the outer skins.

Charred brioche:

Place an oven rack in the top position. Pre-heat the broiler in your oven. Remove the crusts from the slices of brioche and drizzle lightly with evoo, and crack some pepper on the slices too. Open the oven and pull out the lay the sliced bread directly on the oven rack. Slide the rack in and close the oven door. With the oven light, watch the bread as it toasts. This will only take a minute or less. You want to pull the bread just before it burns. Just before. Make sure it is very dark…charred!

Remove the bread slices and allow it to cool. Then cut it into large cubes. Reserve.

For the Dish:

Lay the cured salmon on a flat service skin side down. If you are right handed the tail should be on your right. Opposite that if you are a leftie. Using your sharpest knife, ideally a slicing knife, lay the blade flat on its side on the fish starting at the tail. Slice the fish gently, as thin as possible using the entire length of the knife to “do the work.” This will take a little practice, but be patient. The goal is to have nice thin slices of cure salmon. Slice about a pound off the filet. Then gently slice the fish into half creating bite size pieces, being careful not to mash the fish up. Reserve.

In a large mixing bowl, add the fennel, fava beans, radish (drained), mint and the charred brioche and mix together gently. Add the cured salmon piece by piece until it is all in the bowl. Drizzle the mixture with evoo, some lemon juice a pinch of salt and some fresh cracked pepper. Mix the items gently to incorporate the flavors and distribute the vegetables.

Divide onto 4 plates evenly and if using, pull the petals gently from the marigold flowers and sprinkle over the dish.

Enjoy with a crisp and dry fruity white wine like a Alsatian Riesling and enjoy with people you like!

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