By Barton Seaver
April 20, 2020
Just as with chicken, the presence of seafood skin in dishes can produce dramatically different outcomes. Prepping and serving seafood skin-on yields numerous benefits, including improved moisture and fat retention, structural integrity of the fillet, flavor enhancement, color and textural contrast, and a savings on cost and food waste. That’s a lot of evidence pointing in favor of leaving the skin on.
But not all preparations flatter the skin, and some can lead to rather unpleasant results. For example, when poaching certain species, the skin will become gooey and gelatinous. However, even in such circumstances, there may be a benefit to leaving the skin on during the preparation, but removing it prior to plating.
Many variables come into play when determining whether to go skin on or off, but one thing is certain: The skin can and should be used in some fashion to avoid waste and to capture the greatest value of a product you’ve already paid for. Here are four creative ways to use fish skin.
One way to crisp the skin once it’s removed is curing it in salt for a few hours, rinsing, patting dry, then dee-frying or baking it slowly. Once crisp, try using it in the following applications:
- As a snack plate of fish cracklin’s
- As a textural garnish, crumbled over salad or fish
- Grind it into powder and use as a flavorful visual enhancement
Remove the skin along with about a 1/4-inch thickness of the underlying flesh and bloodline tissue in order to give the remaining fillet a more subtle flavor and appearance. Purée the skin and remnant flesh, and then ferment. The clear liquid that separates over time becomes a version of fish sauce that is prevalent in Southeast Asian cuisines.
Add skin to stock for richness, body and enhanced flavor.
Remove the skin from a medium-thick fatty fillet, such as barramundi or Arctic char, and reconstruct it in the style of porchetta. Start by butterflying the fillet and seasoning with cracked pepper, fennel seeds, herbs, Herbsaint and olive oil. Roll the fillet back into the skin in the form of a roulade. Bake until the flesh is cooked through, then pan-fry, deep-fry or broil to crisp the skin.