Gravlax a la Julia Child

Line drawing of fishGralax, a cured salmon, is one of my go-to recipes for large gatherings. Before you are ready to serve it, cut a small piece off and save for yourself. The hordes will attack it, leaving little left for you.

The most difficult part of making gravlax is first, remembering to buy the salmon beforehand, and second, making room in the refrigerator to store it for three to five days while it cures. Ideally, the salmon fillets will come with skin, but I have done it skinless. The recipe calls for Cognac, but you can use Bourbon in a pinch, and if you forgot to buy the fish five days ahead of time, you can cut diagonal slices in the flesh to make it cure faster. I have found it impossible to mess up.

There are many recipes for gravlax, but all are very similar. Because I have never found a Julia Child recipe to fail, I started with for “Gravlaks” found in Julia Child & Company, published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1978. She wants you to use spruce branches, if available, which I have never done. But the rest of the recipe is straightforward.


5 pounds salmon fillet
3 large bunches of fresh dill weed
2 1/2 TB salt and 1 1/4 TB sugar mixed in a small bowl
4 to 5 TB Cognac (or something similar in a pinch)

Julia recommends a 5-pound center cut of salmon, boned and filleted. I usually find salmon fillets sold separately at Costco and try to get two that match in size. 4 to 5-pounds total will work. As nicely filleted as they may look, do check for any pin bones with your fingers and pull them out. You will usually find one or two.


In a non-reactive dish that is large enough to hold the fish, put down the first bunch of dill, and then lay one of the salmon fillets  on it, skin down. Lay the other fillet on a board also skin down. Rub with the salt and sugar mixture and sprinkle on Cognac. Add a second bunch of dill to the fillet in the pan and top with the second fillet, skin down. You now have a sandwich of salmon and dill. Top everything with the third bunch of dill and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Put in the refrigerator with weights on the top. I used used some iron skillets with cans on top, but whatever works is fine.

Check the fish after two days and baste with the juices. I sometimes add a bit more Cognac. Then turn the fish over (an extra pair of hands here is very useful), replace the plastic and put into the refrigerator again, weighted down. I’ll do this on the third and fourth day as well. You can slice off a small piece to see how it is coming along. You can also add more salt if necessary. It should be done in five days. Take it out of the pan and remove  all the clinging dill  before slicing.

Cut at an angle, making very thin and long slices. You will need a sharp, thin knife, otherwise it comes out hacked. I usually serve it with a mustard dill sauce.


Devilled Almonds – 1927

From the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, 1927 edition:

2 ounces blanched and shredded almonds
1 tablespoons Chutney
2 tablespoons chopped pickles
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
few grains cayenne

Fry almonds until well browned, using enough butter to prevent almonds from burning. Mix remaining ingredients, pour over nuts, and serve as soon as thoroughly heated.

Must have been quite the thing in the 1920’s.

Cheesy Almond Bacon Dip

From Mom, who has people over all the time who need a little something to nibble on.


1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 pound bacon, fried until crispy and crumbled
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoons chili sauce
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
ground pepper

Prepare the first 4 ingredients. In a food processor, combine the remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Pour into a bowl and stir in the almonds, bacon, cheddar and scallions. (Or, for a smoother dip, all ingredients can be processed together.) Refrigerate until ready to be used. Can be garnished with almonds, bacon, cheese or scallions.

Real Chicken Liver Pate

PateI tried to make this the other day for a party on New Year’s Eve but did not have the recipe. It is very good, very fattening, and when I bring it to a party, there is never any left to take home. I am putting it up here so I can find it again wherever I am.

Basically from Julie Dannenbaum’s “Creative Cooking School”.


1 lb. chicken livers
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups finely chopped Bermuda onions
1 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons brandy
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon Spice Parisienne or allspice
1 tablespoon Benedictine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped black truffles or crushed pistachios

(I have never bothered with the Benedictine, truffles or pistachios. However, flaming the brandy is fun.)

Wash the chicken livers and pat dry. Melt 1/4 cup butter in large skillet over high heat, when foaming stops, add the chicken livers and brown. When turning over, add the onions and cook until the onion is wilted. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper and flame with brandy. (I use a long handled buttermelter, warmed, to pour from.)

Then stir in sour cream, spices and Benedictine. Puree nicely and chill at least 30 minutes. Beat 1 cup butter in mixer until light and creamy. Add chilled chicken liver mixture and continue beating until smooth. Season for taste and add in lemon juice and truffles or pistachios if you are using them. Chill in refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Keeps well, but you need to put Saran wrap, aspic or butter on top to keep it from darkening. Let stand a while at room temperature before serving.

Savory Cheese Dollars

I made these for Wowie when she was sick and she seemed to like them, at least she ate them. Somewhat similar to cheese straws, though easier to make. Can be served warm or cold.

1 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
sprinkle of black pepper, freshly ground
pinch of cayenne pepper
4 ounces (or 1 cup) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
8 tablespoons unsalted butter

Can be made in the food processor or electric mixer. In the food processor, first mix the flour, salt and peppers in a small bowl. Process the butter and the cheese cut into small chunks until well mixed, add flour mixture and pulse until well blended.

Refrigerate dough for about an hour. Cut dough into 3 pieces and roll into 1 inch rolls. Can be refrigerated for 3 days at this stage, or well-wrapped, frozen for 3 months.

Pre heat oven to 425 degrees. Slice dough into 1/4 inch slices. Place on cookie sheets and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly browned.

(From “Rose’s Christmas Cookies” by Rose Levy Beranbaum)