When I think of cured fish, I typically think of lox or something Scandanavian. With loads of dried shiitake and kombu in the pantry, however, I wanted to flavor a cured fish, ideally mackerel or trout, with flavors including these ingredients typically included in dashi making.
When I visited the market to pick up the fish, the trout did not look good and the mackerel was already cut. There was a filet of salmon that appeared to have good amounts of fat that would make the transition slightly more literal than I had hoped. I picked it up and settled on salmon cured with with kombu.
Cribbing from a basic gravlax recipe, I adapted the recipe to include the items noted above as well as a few dashes of sake. I ground the dried mushrooms as well as the kombu and add them to the cure.
After spending three days curing under weight and being rinsed, the salmon was cured. It was firm and a deeper shade of pink. The aroma was similar to a concentrated version of dashi. The kombu/shiitake cure suited the fish very well. As much as I dislike the overuse of the term “umami”, it fits the flavors here too well, in this case, to ignore it as the primary flavor descriptor.
The flavors, and salinity, are stronger than in the gravlax I have made. When served alone, the flavors are assertive, but when served over a quickly-prepared frittata with peas and spinach, the cured salmon only shined more.
This little experiment in varying flavors in a cure will open doors for me, not just for curing fish, but adjusting more traditional cures to suit desires, but also to be able to improvise using what is in the pantry and not let those limitations keeps progress at bay.
Kombu Cured Salmon
- 1 piece of kombu, ground
- 3 dried shiitake mushrooms, ground
- 1⁄3 cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1-lb. skin-on salmon filet
- 2 oz. sake
Step one: Combine ground kombu and mushrooms with salt and sugar. Combine with sake to form paste.
Step two: Cover both sides of salmon filet with paste. Seal in a plastic bag and compress under a weighted plate for 3 days, turning daily.
Step three: Rinse filet thoroughly, pat dry and pat dry again.