Salmon Skin Roll

Now that Friends is on Netflix, I've been having a blast throwing it onto the iPad whilst I'm cooking. I've already watched every friggin' episode a hundred times over - hello TBS marathons - but it's one of my favorites and I will never get sick of it. I still remember watching the series finale (during my senior year of high school) and being so sad to see the sitcom that I grew up with finally end. Oh, nostalgia.

Anyway, if you're a fan, do you remember that episode where Rachel and Phoebe go to a self-defense class and then they're talking about it in front of Ross and bragging that now they can kick anyone's ass. Ross then responds that they might be able to handle a fight that they know is coming but they require "unagi," which is a state of total awareness, in order to sense danger. Rachel says, "Isn't that a type of sushi?" and Phoebe chimes in, "Yeah it is! It's freshwater eel," and Rachel says, "Ooh, I would kill for a salmon skin roll right now."

When I first watched that episode, I hadn't even heard of salmon skin rolls before. I'd eaten countless rolls made with unagi but I've never been big on fish skin so I never wanted to waste stomach space during a sushi dinner with (what I thought was) a sub-par roll. Turns out, salmon skin rolls are awesome. The skins are fried until crispy and they're basically like sushi bacon. And lately, I've been obsessed. Plus, I found a new fishmonger that I love and now I have access to awesome seafood. And because salmon skin is crazy cheap (basically $1 per skin because it would be discarded otherwise), it's totally worth making at home.
Ingredients [for 4]:
salmon skin
1 salmon skin (from one side of a whole fish)
½ teaspoon salt

1½ cups sushi rice (short grain sticky rice)
1½ cups water
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1½ teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon sesame oil

filling ingredients
1 mini cucumber, julienned
1 avocado, sliced
bunch watercress

4 to 6 sheets nori
sesame seeds

eel sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon tamari
2 tablespoons mirin

Start by making the rice. Rinse the rice two to three times to get rid of the excess starch. Use a rice cooker to make the rice, if you have one. If you don't have a rice cooker, the rice can be cooked in a saucepan over low heat on top of the stove for 10 to 12 minutes, or until all of the water has absorbed into the rice.
Mix sugar, vinegar, and sesame oil together and then pour it over the rice and mix it all together.
To make the eel sauce, chuck all of the ingredients into a small pot and cook until it's reduced and thickened. Careful not to let it burn, especially with that sugar content.
Preparing the salmon skin is my favorite part. My fishmonger gave me a long piece of skin (basically he skinned the entire fish from head to tail in one piece) so I had to cut it into more manageable pieces. Pat the skin completely dry, slap it onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, and sprinkle with plenty of coarse salt.

By the way, can I just commend my fishmonger's skinning skills? There was really no meat left on the skin, except at the cheek.
Bung the whole tray into a hot broiler and let it sizzle away for 4 to 7 minutes until it's a crispy, crunchy, golden browned masterpiece.
Cool the skins on a wire rack to help it keep its crispness. If you let them cool on a flat surface, they'll steam themselves and go soft.
Once the skins are cooled, cut them into strips.
Slice up the avocado and julienne the cucumber and get ready to assemble the rolls.

I'm not a sushi expert so I recommend watching some youtube videos of sushi making or read up on the method, as described by a sushi master. If you're already a sushi making expert, you might laugh at my skills. Whatever, it still tastes awesome even if it doesn't look perfect.

So, start by spreading a decent layer of rice onto the nori. Add the skins, the cucumbers, the avocado, and the watercress about 1" up from the bottom. Roll the sushi up tightly. I couldn't find my bamboo mat so I just used a piece of cling film to help me with the rolling. Trim off the ugly ends (and eat them right away as a snack) and then cut the sushi into six pieces. It's easiest if you cut the roll in half and then each half into thirds.
I also tried my hand at making an inside-out roll. I sprinkled the rice with some sesame seeds to prevent it from sticking to the cling film as I tried to make the roll.
Plate up the sushi. I found these cute little leaf-shaped plates in the cupboard, which I thought were so much fun for food styling.
Drizzle each roll with a little eel sauce and sprinkle the tops with some sesame seeds.
Grab a little wasabi and soy sauce and dig in.
Savor the crunch and smoky flavor of the salmon skin, the creaminess of the avocado, the spiciness of the watercress, and the juicy sweetness of the cucumber, all wrapped up with the delicately sesame-scented rice and oceany nori. This makes an excellent lunch and a gorgeous dinner.
Invite your friends over. They'll be impressed.

"Say it. Say we are unagi!" "It's not something you are! It's something you have!"
Here's the recipe page:


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