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Sugar, salt cure cook of slighting salmon

My almost heretical preference for rockfish recipes over salmon carried through this blog’s previous post and a recent podcast.

Then I realized I may have been a bit hasty, particularly where curing and smoking fish is concerned. A batch of “candied” salmon, prepared according to instructions on the Smokehouse Products website, was my family’s payoff for fruitful salmon-fishing over Labor Day. And a recent trip to Kachka, a Portland restaurant known for its fish board, reinforced the appeal of cured salmon — in beet juice, no less.

It’s salmon’s fat, of course, that responds so favorably to salt, sugar and spices, making it the obvious choice for curing and smoking and so hard to beat by other proteins in that realm. My candied salmon started with a dry brine, much like basic ratio in the following recipe, before I air-dried it at room temperature and finished it in a low-temperature smoker.

If you don’t have a smoker, you still can cure delicious salmon at home to enjoy with bagels, folded into omelets or on a charcuterie platter. I’ve made salmon for Easter brunch, based on this age-old method, and it got rave reviews.

Salt-, Sugar- and Dill-Cured Salmon

1 cup kosher salt

1 cup sugar

2 bunches fresh dill, roughly chopped

2 (24-ounce) salmon fillets, bones removed as needed

In a small bowl, stir together the salt and sugar until blended.

Sprinkle bottom of a rectangular, glass baking dish with a layer of salt-sugar mixture and a layer of the dill. Lightly season skin side of 1 of the salmon fillets with salt-sugar mixture and place it, skin-side down, in baking dish. Aggressively season flesh side of that fillet with salt-sugar mixture and spread a handful of dill over fish.

Aggressively season flesh side of second fillet and place it on top of other fillet so flesh is resting on flesh. Aggressively season skin side of top of exposed salmon with remaining salt-sugar mixture and spread remaining dill on top.

Cover salmon with plastic wrap and place some weights (such as bricks or a couple of tomato cans resting on a sheet of parchment paper) on it, pressing salmon down evenly. Refrigerate. Flip fish every 12 hours and drain juices collected each time it’s flipped. Do this 4 times over a curing period of 48 hours.

After 48 hours, wipe away any excess salt-sugar mixture with a damp cloth, and salmon is ready to eat. When you’re ready to serve, remove skin.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Photo courtesy of Colleen Eversman/Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc.