If you’ve never tried sushi before because you’re afraid of raw fish, fret not, my friends. Now is the time to give it a whirl, especially when you realize that sushi means vinegared rice, and you can enjoy many varieties of sensational sushi without ever encountering raw fish.
Suffering a sad case of mistaken identity, sushi (which is actually sticky rice rolled up in seaweed with flavorful fillings, topped with interesting garnishes and served in bite-sized pieces) is often confused with sashimi, a Japanese dish consisting of thinly sliced raw fish.
Always up for an interesting culinary adventure, our Eat, Drink and Be Merry club enlisted the help of resident sushi guru Jim Schilling and threw a Sushi-making Party at Home to kick off spring last week.
Jim developed a menu of sushi rolls, and each of us brought a perfect pairing to accompany a particular roll. Arriving with a big bowl of sticky rice already made and all the accoutrements prepped and ready to go, all that was left for us to do was to raise our martini glasses of Sgroppino Cocktail (Prosecco-Limoncello-Vodka-Lemon Sorbet), enjoy some steamed edamame and watch the magic begin.
Having accumulated a big bag of tricks of the trade over the years, Jim made sushi making look like an effortless entertaining venture. He had already toasted the nori, or seaweed sheets, ahead of time under the broiler for 10 seconds, smoked the salmon, fried the tempura shrimp, steamed the king crab and thinly sliced the cucumber, carrot, green onion and jalapeno. With the heavy lifting done ahead of time, he could take his time at the party to show us how to assemble and roll the various sushi rolls.
Using a bamboo sushi mat wrapped tightly in plastic wrap so the rice doesn’t stick, he laid a sheet of toasted nori down. He then dipped his hands into the reserved sushi dressing, scooped out a tennis ball-sized amount of sticky rice and patted it out on top of the nori to cover completely.
He makes his sushi inside out (meaning the nori is on the inside of the rice), so he then flipped the rice-topped nori over, so the seaweed side was facing up. He then layered the desired ingredients on top of the nori sheet in a thin line right next to the edge facing him.
For the Philadelphia roll, for example, he sliced a thin strip of smoked salmon, lined it up along the edge of the nori facing him, topped it with a thinly sliced strip of cream cheese and then layered thin slices of cucumber on top before rolling.
Folding the edge of the sushi mat over the top of the assembled sushi roll, he gently pressed it down to crease and form a round log, then pulled the edge of the mat back so he could check it. Continuing to pull the mat back towards him, he gave it a ¼ of a turn and creased it lightly and continued rolling ¼ of a turn at a time until he had a uniformly round tight log.
He then sprinkled it with toasted sesame seeds and gave it one more press to adhere the seeds to the top of the sushi roll. (Letting it rest briefly allows the nori to soften slightly, Jim said.) To serve, Jim sliced the assembled Philadelphia roll into thin slices (about 8-10 per roll) and served them on dinner plates set with small bowls of soy sauce, wasabi and sushi ginger. What a treat for all of us!
Jim was introduced to sushi through the extensive travel he has done over the years for his business and fell in love with it. When he couldn’t get sushi in Great Falls years ago, he began watching people make it at sushi bars, bought some books and taught himself how to make it at home.
“It’s not that difficult,” Schilling said, “If you have a good rice recipe. There’s a technique to it, but it’s easy.”
I might add that it’s a heck of a lot easier if you have a seasoned pro in the kitchen mentoring you every step of the way. While they call it rolling sushi, it really was more like gently grasping and creasing the assembled roll, then turning it and continuing to form it into a round log.
He recommends gathering at least three couples for a sushi party to make it worth it and making the sticky rice ahead of time because it will keep for up to two days.
With heartfelt thanks to our sushi master Jim Schilling comes this week’s Special of the day: A Sushi-rolling Party at Home with Recipes for. Happy sushi- rolling!
Food photography by Sydne George.
Recipe by Jim Schilling
(yield: about 8-10 cups finished rice, enough for about 10-12 rolls. Each roll makes 8-10 pieces.)
Soak 3 and ½ cups rice in water for 15-20 minutes. Rinse the rice. Bring the rice and 4 and ¼ cups water to a boil. Cover with a lid and cook over medium heat for 13 minutes.
While the rice is cooking, make the sushi dressing*.
Turn heat to lowest setting and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
Spread cooked rice out on wooden board.
Use hands to dip into sushi dressing and drizzle evenly over rice. Use a wide paddle to fold and turn the rice, adding ½ to 2/3 of the sushi dressing (reserve the rest of the dressing for assembling the sushi rolls) as you fold, turn and spread out the rice. Use an electric fan to dry the rice as you are folding it. Rice will form shiny crystals as it cools. It should have a glazed coating and be no longer wet but still sticky when done.
(Sticky rice can be made ahead and kept unrefrigerated in a wooden bowl covered by a damp towel for up to two days.)
Recipe by Jim Schilling
6 tbsp. rice vinegar
6 tbsp. sugar
5 tsp. salt
Cook sushi dressing ingredients in medium non-reactive pan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Do not boil. Continue cooking until sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
To assemble sushi:
Cover bamboo sushi mat tightly with plastic wrap and tape to secure.
Place toasted nori sheet on top of sushi mat to begin.
Give it one more press to adhere the seeds to the top of the roll.
Here’s the lineup of sensational sushi Jim prepared for us:
Smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber, sesame seed.
King crab, carrot, cucumber, avocado.
Fresh Shrimp Roll:
Steamed shrimp, cucumber, avocado, jalapeno
Spicy Tuna Roll:
Fresh ahi tuna, mayonnaise, cucumber, cayenne, green onion, sesame seed
Tempura Shrimp Roll:
Fried shrimp, cream cheese, jalapeno
Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.