This post is sponsored by Pacific Seafood, who provided the ingredients and compensation to make it happen! Although I'm more known for my bakes, I try and eat healthily at home by cooking with lots of organic vegetables and sustainably-raised proteins like chicken and fish — I'm hoping to share more of those recipes in the upcoming year, starting with this Columbia River Steelhead gravlax recipe. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and thank you for supporting the sponsors who help Hummingbird High run!
Many years ago, right when I first started this blog and back when Erlend and I were still living in Denver, his cousin Darcy invited us over for brunch at their place. Even though this was almost nine years ago, I still remember what she served — homemade English muffins. At the time, I had just started my baking journey and was still scared to bake anything related to bread and leavened by yeast, especially at high-altitude. When I asked her about the muffins, she laughed and told me "Oh these? These were really easy to make!" Although she meant to reassure me, her easygoing attitude towards the muffins was completely unrelatable and ended up intimidating me even more.
Fast forward to now — with several beautiful morning buns, babkas, and even a wreath bread under my belt, I finally felt ready to try making English muffins at home. I wish I could emulate Darcy's nonchalance and tell you guys that these were a breeze, but the truth is, my first attempt (using Bon Appetit's Best English Muffins Recipe, to boot) was a complete disaster. English muffins require a tricky dance of many steps, between mixing and shaping the dough and letting it rise, griddling the cakes in English muffin rings in a cast iron pan to let them brown beautifully and get their signature crust, and finally transferring it to the oven to finish baking. If you're not paying full attention or strapped for time (like I was the first time these), there's a lot of room for error. They're no #weeknightbakingbook project, for sure.
But still, I persevered. I'd recently received a giant shipment of Columbia River Steelhead from Pacific Seafood that, after an epic brunch of gravlax smørrebrød at Portland's Scandinavian brunch spot Broder Nord, I'd felt compelled to turn into gravlax perfect to pair with crunchy English muffins. Gravlax is a Nordic dish made by curing raw fish in salt, sugar, and dill; think of it as similar to smoked salmon, but with the smoke replaced by a subtle citrusy herb flavor. The trick to the best gravlax, of course, begins with using the best quality fish like Pacific Seafood's Columbia River Steelhead. Although gravlax is traditionally made with salmon, I decided to try making it with the steelhead, which has an extremely high count of omega-3 fatty acids, and best of all, is raised sustainably with a gentle environmental footprint — you can learn more about their certifications and sustainability awards on Pacific Seafood's site. I then cured the steelhead in a mixture of beets, horseradish, gin, and fresh herbs for added color and flavor. After a 2 day cure, I served the gravlax on my fresh homemade English muffins with a dab of cream cheese, smear of crème fraîche, extra herbs and spinach salad. It was the best brunch EVAR.
You may find yourself intimidated by the recipe below; it does requires sine planning, as you'll be working over a few days to cure the fish and make the English muffin dough the day before griddling and baking them. I've written the recipe to reflect this and break the work over three days. Interestingly enough, curing the Columbia River Steelhead is the easy part — you're simply covering the steelhead with different marinades on different days. As for the English muffins recipe, be sure to read my baker's notes for tips and tricks on how to succeed at English muffins. God speed.
Some baker's notes:
- If you don't like how I've divided up the recipe over the span of days, click the "Print the Recipe" button link below — that will take you to a Google Doc that will have both the English muffins and gravlax recipes written in a more traditional format.
- Although you can probably get away with not using English muffin rings for this recipe, they do make your muffins a lot prettier by giving them a consistent round shape. That being said, they're incredibly fiddly to work with — you'll need to flip the muffins over in their rings as you cook them, and then unmold the muffins before baking them. If you don't care about the aesthetics of your muffins, I suggest skipping them entirely.
- Similarly, you can probably get away with not using a digital food thermometer for this recipe, but it's incredibly hard to tell when English muffins are done cooking and baking since they don't really change much in appearance. The last thing I want is for you to end up with something raw in the middle, which is always a big risk when cooking bread in a griddle since the outsides cook so much faster than the puffy insides. The best way to prevent this is to finish baking the muffins in the oven, and using a digital thermometer to test the insides of each muffin — I've provided more specifics in the recipe for the done temperature of the muffins.