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You "cook" the fish in salt, sugar, and dill.

The Swedes has special ways with salmon. One favorite is gravlax, salmon cured in dill with a mixture of salt and sugar. The process, similar to the first steps for curing meat, draws moisture out of the fish, firms its texture, and introduces pleasant flavor changes.

We've found this classic Swedish process also produces excellent results with fish other than salmon, so we offer alternatives: lingcod, halibut, trout, and tuna; some are more economical than salmon.

It takes about 24 hours standing in the refrigerator to make this cured fish. It can be kept on hand for several days, ready to serve as an elegant appetizer for a buffet or first course for a summer meal. For a main dish, serve as open-faced sandwiches with potato salad or scrambled eggs.

Our recipe borrows from two seasoned gravlax chefs. Fresh dill and cracked white peppercorns delicately flavor the gravlax of Gosta Petterson, head chef for Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). San Francisco caterer Timothy Maxson adds red onion rounds and cognac. Gravlax Plus

1 boned, unskinned fillet (about 2 lb.) of salmon, lingcod, or halibut; 2-pound piece skinned tuna (including albacore) fillet, or 2 pounds tuna steaks cut 1 1/2 inches thick; or 2 pounds boned, unskinned trout fillets

1/4 cup salad oil

1/3 cup each sugar and salt

1 1/2 tablespoons whole white pepper, coarsely crushed

1/4 cup cognac (optional)

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

2 to 3 cups lightly packed fresh dill sprigs

Lemon wedges, sour cream, and mustard sauce (recipe follows)

Crisp flat bread or dense pumpernickel bread

Rub fish with oil. Mix sugar, salt, and pepper; lightly rub mixture over all sides of the fish. In a glass baking dish that the fish almost fills, lay fish, skin side down. Pat rest of mixture on top of fish; spoon cognac over it. If using tuna, coat completely with salt mixture to keep fish from turning a very dark (harmless) color.

Place onion and 1 to 2 cups of the dill on fish. Cover dish tightly with plastic wrap. Chill 12 hours; baste fish with accumulating juices 3 or 4 times. Turn fish over, with dill and onions under it. Cover and chill another 12 hours; baste 3 or 4 times with juices.

After 24 hours, the fish is ready to serve; you can let it stay in the brine for another 24 hours. To keep it 2 additional days, remove from the brine (it will grow increasingly salty otherwise), pat dry, enclose in a plastic bag, and refrigerate.

Place fish, skin side down, on a serving board; discard dill and onion. Garnish fish with remaining fresh dill.

With a sharp knife, cut fish in paper-thin slanting slices; you can offer the whole fish on a buffet to cut and serve.

Eat fish with a squeeze of lemon juice, a dot of sour cream or mustard sauce, and a garnish of fresh dill. To make open-faced sandwiches, spread bread with sour cream and mustard sauce and top with the fish; eat with a knife and fork. Makes 10 to 12 first-course servings.

Mustad sauce. In a bowl, smoothly stir together 2/3 cup Dijon mustard, 1/2 cup salad oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Just before using, stir in 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill and pepper to taste. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.
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Title Annotation:recipe
Date:Jun 1, 1984
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