River Cottage's Gravad Max (Mackerel Gravlax)


Gravad Max [Photograph: Simon Wheeler]

Ever the thrifty and conscious fishermen, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher have adapted a classic gravad lax (gravlax) recipe in The River Cottage Fish Book to accommodate more sustainable mackerel.

Both salmon and mackerel are sweet, oily fish, so it's an easy swap to make. Whole mackerel comes cheap at most fish markets, and they're (fairly) easy to fillet following Fearnley-Whittingstall and Fisher's hilariously detailed instructions. But in my mind, the best part of this recipe is that the small cured fillets are ready to eat in as little as 24 hours (or up to 48)—so much faster than old-fashioned gravlax.

Why I picked this recipe: A unique alternative to gravlax in 2 days (or less)? Yes please.

What worked: The cure had the perfect balance of sugar and salt; my fillets emerged well-cured but not tough after 48 hours.

What didn't: I had a tough time removing all of the pin bones when I filleted the fish myself. They're fairly easily avoided when eating, but a bit of a nuisance.

Suggested tweaks: As written, the cure is dead simple. Adding other herbs, spices, and/or liquor (Aquavit and juniper, anyone?) would be add welcome variety.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The River Cottage Fish Book to give away.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer out of Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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