Shimmering with iridescent scales, smooth yet strong, our salmon are covered with sleek, dynamic coats. The color and markings on the skin are the first things we notice about the fish we catch. Blue to black to green backs meeting a distinct line of silver bordered horizontally by a black line signal fresh deep ocean run sockeye. Pinks have tiny scales compared to the other species and little spots on their bodies, while keta (called chum or dog salmon by Alaskans) have subtle water-color-like purplish tiger stripes on their sides. When we catch king salmon, their black gums and riotously silvery tails covered in black spots catch our eye, and something about their skin produces a unique smell sort of like fresh cucumbers or copper. (Not everyone can claim to be able to smell this). Our favorite salmon skin probably comes from cohos. As the summer progresses closer to fall, they become firmer and their scales take on a golden-silver splendor that seems almost magical in its depth of beauty.
Although often we humans discard salmon skin to focus on the brilliant flesh, we are interested in opening our minds to the different, myriad ways to use salmon skin. Both of us have wallets made out of salmon leather (seriously! not made by ourselves, yet) and Adelia has been wearing amazing earrings decorated with dyed salmon skin pretty much nonstop for a while now. And it’s not just a pretty thing to look at, either. In terms of our eating habits, maybe we should start thinking more like grizzly bears, who get themselves prepared for winter in Kodiak by eating thousands of pounds of salmon. When they get really full, they will simply strip the skin off a salmon carcass and eat it, leaving the rest of the fish for eagles, foxes and whoever else in the food chain happens to get it. They know that the skin is where the highest concentration of dense yummy omega-3s is found - they know where the good stuff is!
With this in mind, we made some crispy salmon skin strips for our salad topping the other day. While not our own idea originally, we attribute the inspiration to the restaurant Kyatchi (which has bought and served some of our fillets in their menu). We didn’t use their recipe, just fried the strips of skin with a little salt and pepper seasoning, but there are lots of interesting ideas online for salmon skin toppings, some of which we’ll be following up on soon. Not only do they taste great, lessening the fishy flavor, they’re also so healthy, and we get a big kick out of using all of our salmon fillets, from top to bottom.
Normally we leave the skin on when baking or grilling our fish to keep it moist and delicious, but when we do skin the fish, we make sure to use a very sharp knife and make a small cut in the flesh about an inch wide at the tail end of the fillet to leave a “handle” to hold on to, but do not cut through the skin. As you can see in the video, then we just keep the knife pointed away from us and angled down, and the skin comes off in one lovely piece. With practice comes perfection. Happy salmon skinning and eating, maximizing your purchase and your health!