The first post of 2018 and I'll keep it brief. On the rare occasion, I happen upon something surprising and delicious in my line of work, that I didn't cook myself. It is typically very simplistic, which are hands down my favorite dishes. At the end of 2017 (what we can all agree was a pretty turbulent year.) I needed a culinary win...something that would shine the light on the gloomy corners of my cynical culinary heart.
On an evening when I had no interest in cooking, I ordered a few dishes from a local Japanese restaurant. As is the case with most restaurants currently, the food was average, slightly over seasoned and void of any real nuance or finesse. I did venture into the sushi menu, which is rare, that's where I saw it listed...Crispy Salmon Skin sushi. It was just interesting enough to risk the disappointment. To be clear, I am no stranger to the magic that is a perfectly crispy salmon skin. I've seen it in a few variations, over rice, as a ramen topper, etc. I had never encountered it in a sushi roll.
When my ordered arrived, I tore into the sushi first. It was a revelation. I'm sure there are plenty of talented sushi masters out there that will roll their eyes that my excitement over something so commonplace. I'm also confident that the roll I had was not the very best on the planet. I can say for certain that I've now ordered that roll three times and it is consistently good. Briny, not fishy, slightly sweet, perfectly crisp and utterly satisfying. When I encounter something that excites me I get obsessive and continue to chase after that taste and experience in different places. I'll keep you abreast of my findings.
Salmon Skin Sushi Rolls | Serves 4 | Active cook time: 50 min
- 1 1/4 cups short-grain sushi rice
- 1 1/3 cups water
- 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, preferably unhulled
- 1 tablespoon wasabi powder
- 1 tablespoon hot water
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Four 9-ounce salmon fillets, with skin
- Freshly ground pepper
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- Four 8-inch-square nori sheets
- 1 medium cucumber—peeled, seeded, halved crosswise and cut lengthwise into thin strips
- Soy sauce, for serving
Put the rice in a medium saucepan, rinse well and drain. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook the rice over low heat for 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the rice stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, stir the vinegar with the sugar and 3/4 teaspoon of salt until dissolved. Spread the hot rice on a large rimmed baking sheet in an even layer. Sprinkle the vinegar mixture evenly over the rice. With a wooden spoon or a pastry scraper in one hand and a simple paper fan in the other, lightly stir and toss the rice while fanning it until the rice is glossy and cool.
In a small dry skillet, cook the sesame seeds over moderately high heat until toasted, about 1 minute. In a small bowl, mix together the wasabi powder and hot water to make a paste; keep covered.
In a medium saucepan, heat 1/2 inch of oil to 325°. With a long, sharp knife, cut the skin from the salmon fillets, leaving 1/4 inch of flesh on the skin. Season the salmon skin with salt and pepper and dust with flour. Fry one at a time over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain the salmon skin on paper towels and repeat with the rest.
Put a nori sheet on a bamboo sushi mat, shiny side down. With moist hands, pat 3/4 cup of the rice on the nori in an even layer, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of the toasted sesame seeds over the rice, then spread 1/4 teaspoon of the wasabi paste in a thin line across the rice. Lay a salmon skin on the rice nearest you and top with one fourth of the cucumber strips. Lift the end of the bamboo mat nearest you up and over, pressing to tuck the skin and cucumber into a cylinder. Tightly roll up the fillings in the rice and nori. Repeat to form the remaining 3 rolls. Cut each roll into 6 pieces and transfer to a platter. Serve with a small bowl of soy sauce and extra wasabi, if desired.
The rice can stand at room temperature, covered, for up to 4 hours. The fried salmon skin can be prepared earlier in the day. Reheat in a 400° oven for 3 minutes.
I am a chef and entrepreneur. I have a passion for storytelling and hearing story told, truth is I could spend the balance of my life travelling, cooking, and writing.