Beet Tinted Salmon Crudo with Horseradish Relish (Jewish Sashimi)
Cold smoked and salt-cured fish are my favorite Ashkenazi-American Jewish foods. From special occasion treats like sturgeon and sable to the more humble whitefish and mackerel, Jewish deli fish is something special. Lox—both salt cured and cold smoked—is the happy medium. It's a bit pricy for everyday food, especially when you get to the good stuff, but you it won't strain your wallet like a caviar habit. As there is no Russ and Daughters equivalent in Austin, I have had to find my uncooked fish fix in other places. I have developed an especially strong taste for sashimi. And much like lox, salmon sashimi is the happy medium between cost, quality, and availability. I am frequently satisfied with the quality of salmon sashimi at mid-price sushi restaurants. I had initially planned to post a lox recipe, but when I learned that I had to buy sushi-grade salmon anyway to make lox at home, I decided to make a lox-inspired crudo instead. It's a lot less fuss, and you really get to appreciate the fresh, delicate taste of the $15-20 hunk of fish you bought.
Beet cured lox brings the visual impact of lox to a whole new level; the flavor the beet imparts is subtle, but it enhances the appeal of the already jewel-like and luxurious fish. Because beets are so pigmented, you can recreate the look and earthy taste of beet cured lox on raw, uncured salmon in under two hours. Horseradish is a typical condiment for Ashkenazi fish dishes, and it has a taste not dissimilar to wasabi. And unlike wasabi, it is fairly easy to find fresh horseradish in American grocery stores. This salmon makes a very attractive appetizer and can also be a light meal when served in larger portions with sushi rice.
You can get sushi-grade salmon from the Asian grocery chain H-Mart, which is where I got mine. It is also available frozen from many chain and gourmet groceries—you will just need to defrost it before attempting the recipe. Sushi-grade just means that the fish has been previously frozen at a super cold temperature to kill any parasites; the actual quality of the fish varies, so buy from a store with good quality seafood and look for salmon that is nice and fatty. This recipe calls for fresh horseradish, but you can use the Jewish pickled kind for a slightly different effect—just omit the rice vinegar. This recipe will serve 2-6 as an appetizer or side (depending on portion sizes) or one hungry person as a meal with sushi rice. It can be easily scaled up or down.
1/2 to 3/4 lb sushi-grade salmon fillet
1/2 medium red beet, finely grated (at least 1/4 cup)
Shiso or parilla leaf to garnish (optional)
For the relish:
2 tbsp grated fresh horseradish
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp rice vinegar
1–2 tbsp mayonnaise
salt, to taste
Trim the salmon fillet, if necessary, so that it is of a mostly uniform thickness. If it has any fish odor, rinse it in cold water and pat dry. If it still smells fishy, maybe this is not a salmon you want to eat raw. Don't discard the precious trimmed bits...eat them as you prepare the crudo.
You may want to use gloves to handle the beet. Rub the grated beet mush on all sides of the salmon. Wrap in plastic and leave in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 6 hours—more than that, and the salmon may get fishy and/or the beet taste will overwhelm the salmon.
Make the relish shortly before you want to serve it, as horseradish quickly loses its potency. Put the grated horseradish and ginger into a small bowl. Mix with the rice vinegar—this adds a slight tartness and will keep the horseradish from turning brown.
Slowly add the mayonnaise to the grated root mixture, one tsp at a time. You want it to have a spreadable paste-like texture, wetter than wasabi but firmer than tartar sauce. The amount of mayo you need will vary depending on the water content of your ginger and horseradish. When it reaches the right consistency, sprinkle with salt (to taste). You want the relish to have a strong flavor, as the salmon is unseasoned.
Remove the salmon from the refrigerator within 30 minutes of when you plan to serve it. Rinse off the grated beet from the salmon fillet with cold water. The fish should be an intense purple-y red. Pat dry.
Slice the salmon diagonally into 1/4-inch thick segments. Serve sliced with teaspoon-sized dollops of the relish.