I work at a smoked fish and specialty shop called Shelsky's Smoked Fish in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
I have a great time slicing salmon and sable by hand, making whitefish salad and mixing scallions into cream cheese. I help make bagels and suggest spreads for people that are in need of appetizing advice. I generally have a good time and things are swell.
It's an old-school style Jewish Appetizing store. There are not many left in the city, and Peter Shelsky (my boss!) is making a comeback and quite a splash (pun intended) in the city as a whole, let alone Brooklyn.
With the option of everything in the store for my breakfast/lunch it can be daunting to choose fatty Nova over earthy sturgeon, egg salad over whitefish. bagels or rye bread; the list goes on.
But about three out of every four days, I eat the Will Special.
A toasted sesame bagel with butter, Gravlax, red onions and capers. (just before a giant bite is taken out of it)
The bagel must be toasted so that most of the butter melts into the bread. It is acceptable to get this on a different bagel, although I do not suggest it (unless you like plain bagels). There should also be plenty of onion and plenty of capers. Double what you may normally get on a sandwich. These are not optional.
I love this sandwich. It is incredible.
We cure the gravlax in house and get the bagels from Mill Basin Bagel Cafe. These I feel, are important measures in this being a fantastic sandwich. The bagels are chewy and dense, with an excellent crunch from the crust. They are slightly sweeter than other bagels. No soft, pillowy bagels for me. I do not want a roll. If I wanted a roll, I would get a roll. I want a bagel.
The salmon is very smooth from the curing process. It tastes of dill and magic; not in an overwhelming way, but in an I'm-going-to-eat-an-entire-pound-of-this way. The cure (mostly salt and sugar) lends itself nicely to the salmon without making it too salty or too sweet. It has an almost raw mouth feel, and if we've learned anything from sushi, raw salmon can be sexy.
This all being said. Maybe Shelsky's is out of the question for you. Maybe you don't live in New York.
You can still have this sandwich.
Following the next picture there will be some links to curing your own gravlax. It is much easier than you can imagine, and you can play around with the flavors just as well. Or you can come to Shelsky's and buy some of ours which we make really well and is really amazing.
Isn't this what it's all about!?
Here are some basic Gravlax recipes that can be easily looked over and written down.
Gravlax How-To from Food52 This an excellent tutorial of curing your own fish. I would use about thirty times more dill than they show in the pictures (actually use an entire bunch or two). Also, if you don't have Aquavit, use a nice gin. At least you'll drink the gin afterwards! Try this gin called DH Krahn which is very citrus forward and slightly sweet.
Gravlax How-To from About.com This tutorial has some other ideas in it like using dill seeds and cutting the fillets down a little. It's okay to use just a little bit of salmon if you don't want to buy a whole fillet. Also, don't worry about all this freezing business; just buy fresh fish.
Step two of the Will Special? Buy a red onion and a small jar of capers in brine.
Put it all on a bagel, and send me some fan mail!