Since the Middle Ages, fisherman have prepared gravlax, or “buried fish”. Hardly a more impressive and beautiful holiday make-in-advance plate exists for a large gathering of family and friends than a lovely home-cured side of salmon that may be served as an appetizer before the celebratory feast or as part of a breakfast buffet. Plan ahead and then serve to awed guests when they see the ombre tint of this Nordic inspired preparation—shhhh, no one needs to know that the intense magenta color comes from beets. The beets provide gorgeous color but do not flavor the salmon. While dill is the traditional Swedish accompaniment for gravlax, the chives in this recipe are a nice twist—if made in the summer time, use the pretty purple chive flowers rather than a bed of evergreens to garnish the serving board. 

cuisine Nordic
difficulty Moderate
season Year Round
serves 8

Ingredients for the fish

  • 1 1/2 pound side of salmon, skin on
  • 1 1/2 cups beets (peeled, trimmed, & grated)
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated or jarred horseradish
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice

For the sauce

  • 4 ounces crème fraîche
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated or jarred horseradish
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Chives


  1. Line a quarter sheet baking tray with plastic wrap leaving an 8” overhang on either end.
  2. Stir the beets, horseradish, salt, sugar, vodka, lemon zest and juice together until thoroughly mixed together.
  3. Place the salmon flesh side down on the prepared tray and rub a bit of the beet mixture on to the skin.
  4. Turn the fish over and pat the remaining beet mixture evenly over the salmon making certain to cover the entire surface.
  5. Fold the ends of the plastic wrap over the salmon and then cover the entire tray in plastic wrap. Stack another quarter sheet baking tray on top of the fish and weigh down with a heavy object such as a cast iron pot lid and refrigerate for 48 to 72 hours, depending on the thickness of the fish).
  6. Once cured, unwrap the salmon, pour the juices down the sink, and gently rinse the fish to remove the rub.
  7. Pat the fillet dry with a paper towel and tightly wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
  8. To serve, use a long sharp knife to slice the salmon at an angle into strips (the skin should not be cut through but rather used to anchor the knife and make certain the slices of fish come off in long thin pieces).
  9. Arrange the salmon on a serving board and pass the sauce.

for the sauce

  1. Combine the crème fraîche, lemon zest & juice, & black pepper. Use kitchen scissors to snip a generous amount of chives into the sauce.