SALMON

Curing salmon might seem like an intimidating kitchen project, but all you need is time.

TheKitchn.com

If you're looking for a showstopper, look no further than this gorgeous beet-cured salmon. Covering salmon with shredded red beets gives the fish a beautiful gradient of red, pink and orange. Underneath the beets, the salmon sits in a cure made with salt, sugar and herbs, which firms up the flesh and imparts the saltiness we all know and love in lox.

Curing salmon might seem like an intimidating kitchen project, but all you need is time -- there's absolutely no cooking involved. It's guaranteed to amaze your guests at your next brunch or dinner party.

Salmon Curing 101

The salmon: When shopping for a side of salmon, remember that it won't be cooked over heat but instead will be sitting in a salt and sugar cure. Get the best-quality salmon you can to yield the best results. The fish shouldn't have an overly fishy smell and the flesh should be quite firm.

Bottom of Form

The cure: A cure is simply made of salt and sugar but can be jazzed up with other flavorings. Lemon zest and fresh dill are classic pairings with cured salmon, and they help impart a fresh, bright taste to the fish. The amount of salt here is important: We used 2/3 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt. If you're using another brand, weigh out 100 grams to get an equal amount, since salt crystals can vary in shape and size and thus weigh differently. Last comes a blanket of shredded red beets, which add moisture, more sweetness and of course that red color that makes this salmon so beautiful.

Weighing it down: Once the salmon is coated with the cure, it's important to cover and weigh it down with heavier things. This helps press out excess moisture and firms up the fish so that it's easier to slice. Load up a baking dish with cans or other heavy things you find around your kitchen. After two or three days, the salmon is cured and ready to slice!

How to eat beet-cured salmon

You can eat beet-cured salmon just like you would lox or salmon. It's delicious on bagels or a piece of flatbread with some cucumber slices and fresh herbs, or you can even dice it up and put it into a chopped salad. Look for ingredients with contrasting flavors and textures, like lemon, cream cheese, thinly slivered onions, or capers to really make the beet-cured salmon sing.

Beet-Cured Salmon

Makes 1 side of salmon

1 (2 to 2 1/2-pound) skin-on salmon filet, preferably center cut, pin bones removed

2/3 cup kosher salt (100 grams)

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

Finely grated zest from 2 medium lemons (about 2 tablespoons)

3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill (from about 10 sprigs)

1 pound loose red beets (about 3 medium)

1. Pat the salmon very dry with paper towels, then place skin-side up on a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Place the salt, sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl and use your fingers to combine and rub the zest into the salt and sugar. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the salt mixture over the salmon skin. Flip the salmon and sprinkle the remaining salt mixture over the flesh, sprinkling a little more over the thicker parts. Gently pat it in. Evenly sprinkle the dill over the salmon. Let sit while you prepare the beets.

3. Peel the beets, then shred on the large holes of a box grater. Pack the beets in an even layer over the flesh of the salmon and around the sides. Tightly cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap.

4. Place a 9-by-13-inch baking dish on top of the salmon, then place a few cans or a large zip-top bag of water in the baking dish to weigh it down evenly. Refrigerate until the flesh of the salmon is firm, two to three days. It will let out a lot of liquid.

5. Uncover the salmon and gently wipe the beet layer off (do not rinse the salmon off after this). Pat very dry with paper towels. To serve, cut at an angle across the grain into thin slices, leaving the skin behind.

Recipe notes: Leftovers can be well-wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to one week. If using another kind of salt, make sure you weigh it and use 100 grams.

(Christine Gallary is food editor-at-large for TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to editorial@thekitchn.com.)

Load comments