Saturday, April 21, 2007

Check these mad makizushi skillz, yo...

That enough cred for ya, T-bake? Anyway... last night was sushi night here at Casa del Belmont. Having recently gotten hold of a bunch of old Good Eats episodes, I decided to try my hand at sushi, Alton Brown style. As most of you probably know, sushi comes in many varieties, the two most common, in the States anyway, being nigiri (a slice of fish placed atop a little ball of rice) and maki (or makizushi, the rolled up variety). And that's what I made. Both of them came out very well, although I must confess, my California rolls were a bit on the dodgy side. I pass this along to any of you adventurous enough to try your hand at sushi:

As for equipment, pretty much all you need is a good sharp knife, a sushi mat and a cutting board (a plastic one devoted to meat is a good way to go here, though I used one made of wood. As Alton says, "Yes, I'm okay with that.")

Fish, raw or otherwise. I went with maguro (bluefin tuna), escolar (snake mackerel), smoked salmon and surimi (imitation crab meat made from pollock).
2 C sushi rice
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 package of nori (sheets of what most people think is seaweed; it is in fact, algae)
One carrot, julienned
One cucumber, julienned
One avocado, halved and sliced into thin strips
Wasabi paste
Pickled ginger
Sesame seeds

First, the instructions, with photos to follow (I've arranged them roughly in order as per the instructions):

The first thing you'll need to do is cook your rice, according to the instructions on the bag. This usually entails bring the rice and water to a boil, then covering and simmering for 20-30 minutes. Use at least 2 cups of rice and the equivalent amount of water, probably 2 1/2 cups. Once the rice is done, let it sit off the heat for 15 minutes or so. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, salt and rice wine vinegar in a microwave-safe container. Microwave on high for about 30 seconds, and stir to partially combine. There won't be enough vinegar to completely dissolve the sugar and salt, but do the best you can.

Transfer the rice to a large wooden, glass or ceramic bowl. Pour the vinegar/sugar/salt mixture over it and combine with a spatula. Now you don't want to stir, you want to turn the spatula sideways and make slashing motions as you turn the bowl. Then cool the rice with a fan for about 15-20 minutes, until it's near room temperature.

Next, turn your attention to the fish. For nigiri, slice strips about 1/4 inch in width from the steak, against the grain (from here on, you can check the photos below). For the maki rolls, cut 1/2 inch sections, turn them over and cut into strips which are roughly 1/2 inch square in cross section.

We'll do the maki rolls first. On your cutting board, lay out your sushi mat, flat side up, and place a sheet of nori on it, flush with the edge of the mat closest to you. You'll want the rough side of the nori up, and have it oriented so that it's wider than it is tall. I trimmed about an inch and a half off the upper edge to get the size just right. Next, place a layer of rice, about 1/4 inch thick, on the nori, covering all but a quarter inch or so at the top. Dab a thin strip of wasabi right along the middle (go easy on the wasabi, by the way. It's stronger than you think). Now you're ready to throw down the filling. In the photo, you can see that I've gone with maguro and julienned carrots. For my second roll I used escolar and cucumber, and for my California rolls I used the standard avocado, surimi, carrot and cucumber.

Roll from the bottom. When the roll is nearly complete, you'll want to lift the leading edge of the mat so that it doesn't become part of the roll, obviously. Use it consolidate the roll a bit, and you're ready to slice. A roll made from a standard sheet of nori will yield about six pieces. I cut the rolls in half, doubled up and cut into thirds. Plate... and serve!

The process for the Cali rolls is more or less the same, although you will want to cover your sushi mat with plastic wrap. After spreading the rice onto the nori, coat it with a liberal amount of sesame seeds and very carefully turn it over. Add the avocado, surimi, carrots and cucumber and roll as before.

The nigiri is a bit simpler. Start by making an oval-shaped ball of rice in the palm of your hand, about a tablespoon and a half (dip your fingers in a bowl of water, by the way, before handling the rice). With the index finger of that same hand, spread a little wasabi on the back of your fish slice. Then place the fish on the rice and plate. Serve with a little wasabi, pickled ginger, and some soy sauce, and you, my friend, will have yourself some sushi!

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