Salt and Sugar Cured Salmon (Gravlax)

The author says: "Use king or sockeye salmon when they're in season, Atlantic or farm-raised salmon from a good source otherwise. In either case, the fish must be spanking fresh." --Mark Bittman

1 (3- to 4-pound) salmon, weighed after cleaning and beheading, skin on
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 good-size bunch dill, roughly chopped, stems and all
1 tablespoon spirits: brandy, gin, aquavit, lemon vodka, etc.

Fillet the salmon or have the fishmonger fillet it for you; the fish need not be scaled. Lay both halves, skin side down, on a plate. Sprinkle with the salt, sugar, and pepper, spread the dill over them, and splash on the spirits. Sandwich the fillets together, tail to tail, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Cover the sandwich with another plate and something that weighs about a pound -- an unopened can of coffee or beans, for example. Refrigerate.
Open the package every 12 to 24 hours and baste, inside and out, with the accumulated juices. On the second or third day, when the flesh has lost its translucence, slice thinly as you would smoked salmon -- on the bias and without the skin -- and serve with rye bread or pumpernickel, and lemon wedges.
Yield: 12 or more appetizer servings

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