I'm a California transplant from New York, and on the long list of delicious things that you can't get in California, including pizza, bagels, egg rolls and cold weather, is lox. In my opinion, ACME nova lox from Brooklyn, NY is the king of all things appetizing. I grew up with the kid who stands to inherit the 4th generation business and have eaten the stuff all of my life. The only problem is, you rarely see it out here in Cali, and back home in Port Washington, NY, at Let There Be Bagels, the best appetizing (aka "spread") store around, nova costs $40.00 a pound!
Even if you've managed to keep your job through these crazy economic times, that's still a lot of hooch for some uncooked fish. As with many things DIY, there's an alternate, cheaper method that I'll share with you, which, in my humble New York Jew opinion tastes just as good, if not better than the full price cold smoked specialty store bought stuff.
Step 1: Ingredients
I picked up some locally farmed, sustainably raised Duart Salmon there for $9.99 per lb. Now that must have been on sale, but you should be able to find a very high quality salmon that's under $20.00 per lb. - still 1/2 the cost of the stuff at the bagel store.
In terms of quantity, the process takes just a little foresight, 24-48 hours worth, so I'd recommend buying about twice as much as you'd think you'll need and inviting over some friends if you find yourself having extra. I bought 2 lbs. and was able to feed 6-8 people with modest portions.
If you fish counter is selling more than one type of salmon, tell them you're going to be making lox with it and that you'd like the freshest thing they've got with a decent amount of fat in it. I've heard fishmongers recommend Duart Salmon, and more often, King Salmon.
- 2 lbs. Duart salmon fillet
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1 bunch dill
- 1 lemon
- cream cheese
- red onion
Step 2: De-bone
Step 3: Pack in Sugar and Wrap
I'm working inside of a large deep pan so that excess sugar and juices don't spill all over the place - it makes it a whole lot easier.
Step 4: Weight, Angle, and Place in Fridge
Put everything into the fridge and use something to prop up just one side of the whole operation - this way juices will drain away from the fish and won't just pool up in the saran wrap.
Step 5: Check After 24 Hours
If there's still ample salt and sugar left, you're good to go for another 24 hours of curing. Replace the weight, angle, and put it back in the fridge.
If it looks like all of your salt and sugar mixture has turned into a runny mess, repack the fish with more salt and sugar, re-wrap, weight, angle and place in the fridge for another 24 hours.
Step 6: Remove and Rinse
Place the fish on a clean cutting board and grab your sharpest knife.
Step 7: Take Off Skin
Peel it off slowly and throw it away, or use it for a tasty salmon skin roll. If it's slick, thin and slippery, you can leave it in place and cut the lox anyway, you'll just have to make sure all of your cuts don't go through the skin.
Step 8: Slice
Use the sharpest knife that you can find for this process.
Arrange you slices somewhere flat and in one layer - they tend to stick to each other if you stack them up. Separate layers with saran wrap and slice up the entire piece of salmon.
Step 9: Garnish and Serve
My perfect bagel with lox construction goes something like this:
Get a lightly toasted everything bagel (from NY if possible) and cover with cream cheese. Stick some capers into the cream cheese, which will hold them in place so that they don't roll off the bagel (common problem). Then, load the bagel up with lox, not too much, but not too little. Maybe 3-4 pieces. On top of the lox goes thinly sliced red onion (so that you don't have to touch the lox directly with your fingers while you're eating the bagel (only a problem if you're a fan of the open face bagel), lemon juice, a touch of salt and pepper and more fresh dill.