Tonight we’re on to something new; although something that is still often stuck in my head as well. Sushi. I love sushi. This is a relatively new realization for me. I only tried sushi for the first time five years ago. Now I’m officially hooked. Addicted. It’s a must-have at least twice a month for me. It would be more often if it wasn’t for budgets and watching the mercury intake. After all I don’t want to end up like Jeremy Piven.
So when A_Boleyn suggested we cook recipes from Japan – I knew sushi was going to be on the menu. Mike and I have made sushi the last few years on New Year’s Eve (also Mike’s birthday). After we put the kids to bed, we get cooking and have really enjoyed experimenting with various options. We’re not experts by any means, but that’s part of what makes this so fun for us. We’ve enjoyed some successes and tossed others in the trash – it’s totally trial and error. So after a sushi cooking class this past month, I figured we were ready to give it a go again – with the kids this time.
Now there are a few things that I feel are necessary when it comes to making good sushi:
Properly cooked rice. Make sure you rinse the rice to wash away some of the starch. If you don’t you’ll have overly sticky and very starchy rice. Run it under cold water in a strainer until the water runs clear. This can take up to 30 minutes.
Cook the rice in a rice cooker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once complete place the rice in a non-metal dish and spread it out with a paddle. Combine rice vinegar, sea salt and sugar in a bowl and dissolve the sugar. Add the mixture to the rice a few tablespoons at time while cutting the rice with a paddle (don’t stir it as it will become mushy), and fan it to cool. You’ll want to use 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of the vinegar mixture and the rice should be room temperature when complete. Make sure to use this within an hour and do not refrigerate.
Mise en place. Everything in its place. I find this to be a crucial step in preparing sushi and, unlike the rice, a lot of this can be done ahead of time. We prepared some julienne asparagus, cucumber and green onions for maki fillers.
And of course we needed some fresh seafood. Try and get your hands on some sushi-grade seafood. This seafood is frozen in a way to help prevent food-borne illnesses. If you have a Whole Foods in your area, call at least 24 hours in advance and request your sushi-grade fish. We selected a tuna, one of my favorites and sliced it for toppings. We also chopped some and combined it with sambal for a spicy tuna roll (yum!).
As for the shrimp, we left some to stand on its own and then created a shrimp tempura out of the rest. We dipped the shrimps in egg white and panko and fried them in a bit of canola oil. We also fried a bit of the panko to create a tempura topping.
Now if you’re preparing this ahead of time, make sure to keep the fish (with the exception of the tempura) refrigerated.
Now it’s time for the all-important Tezu!!!!! This is the greatest little concoction ever. It’s a blend of water and rice vinegar and it helps to prevent the rice from sticking all over your when you make the rolls – and it really works! Mr. N helped us to line the nori with some rice by first dipping his hands in the tezu and then gently using the tips of his fingers to spread the rice.
As for dad and I, we dipped our hands in tezu and took care of the rolling, which can be a little challenging. The trick is to start by rolling the bottom of the mat/nori over the filling. Give it a little tuck and then lift the mat again and continue rolling until the top is rolled in. Then squeeze it gently to seal.
If you’re preparing inside-out rolls (rice on the outside), it’s now time to layer your desired toppings over the rolls. You can top with slices of raw fish, cooked fish, eel, sesame seeds, or cilantro. Go wild! Experiment!
And finally, sharp knives – really sharp knives – are crucial for making good sushi. You’ll want to sharpen your knives, pat them down with tezu and then slice the rolls into your desired pieces. Reapply the tezu as necessary to prevent the rice from sticking to the knife. And now it’s time to garnish and serve. Here’s what we came up with:
This one was rolled inside-out and filled with cooked shrimp, asparagus and green onion and topped with tuna and salmon. This one got a 3 spoon vote from Mike and 2 spoons from me. We didn’t share this one with the kids as we’re hesitant to give them tuna.
We rolled this one traditionally, with the rice on the inside, and filled it with shrimp tempura, green onions and cucumbers. This one got 4 spoons from Mike and Mr. N and a 3 spoon vote from me. Miss A wouldn’t touch this one. You’ll see why in a moment.
This one was rolled inside-out featuring a spicy salmon (chopped salmon, mayo and sambal) on the inside with green onions, and for the topping we threw on some salmon and stuck it on the top rack of the broiler for about five minutes. We then added some more spicy salmon over the top and drizzled it with a spicy mayo (mayo and sriracha) and garnished it with tempura flakes. This got 4 spoons from Mike and I. We didn’t share this one with the kids due to the raw salmon and heat.
We again rolled this one inside-out and filled it with strawberries, mango and cream cheese. We topped the roll with more strawberries and mango as well as avocado. Finally we drizzled the roll with a bit of raw honey. This one received 4 spoons from Miss A and I (she spent all her time on this roll) and 3 spoons from Mr. N and Mike.
All-in-all our sushi night was a culinary success; however, we bow down to the masters. The amount of time, training and skill that sushi takes is just astounding. Everything from the quality of the rice to the freshness of the ingredients and from the artistic presentation to the utter skill required to produce dozens of these an hour…sushi chefs are truly gifted.
But while our food was tasty and we had fun with the kids, I think Mike and I will stick to making this on our own on New Year’s Eve. We love cooking with the kids and they are becoming quite adept (even expert) in the kitchen, but the amount of time and patience required for sushi is just a bit beyond them. Besides, it just always makes for a fun adventure for an at-home date night. So there you have it…our epic sushi adventure. If you do want to try it with your kids or friends…mise en place!!!!
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