Saturday, August 16, 2008

CSA - Avocado salmon sushi

Next up out of last week's CSA share are the avocados which are finally ripe enough to use. This first recipe doesn't use a whole lot of it, but it's been a really long time since I've made sushi at home and it's good to keep up the skills.

This was something of a spur of the moment idea though and I don't keep sushi-grade fish just lying around the house. I do have some not-too-bad salmon, though, so I decided to use that. There are a couple of choices if you're going to use lesser fish for sushi: either you can sear it, and if my salmon had skin that's the way I would have gone, or you can chop it up into a paste like you find in spicy tuna rolls.

My woefully understocked pantry is missing Japanese-style mayonnaise too so a real spicy roll wasn't going to happen. Instead, after mashing up my salmon (and removing the darker-colored nasty-tasting line of flesh that runs down the middle. I thought it was called a bloodline, but looking up the term didn't turn up information on it so I must have been wrong.) I added a couple dashes of powdered wasabi, a dash of powdered ginger, a dash of white pepper, a couple teaspoons of soy sauce and a teaspoon of sesame oil. I mixed that all up and set it aside in the refrigerator to let the flavors of the powders bloom a bit.

Next up is the rice. Sushi rice should stick together because of the stuff it's mixed with, not due to starch so you need to rinse it thoroughly before cooking it. Cover the rice with water and stir until the water is cloudy with starch, pour it out and repeat until the water runs clear. I went through four rinses and my rice still turned out sticky so just do the best you can. Cook the rice in your usual way, adding in a chunk of kombu if you've got any. When the rice is done add 1/8 cup of rice wine vinegar and a Tablespoon of mirin (a little less of sugar will do) per cup of uncooked rice. Mix thoroughly and spread it out on a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet to cool. Personally I like my rice a little warm, but some people get it down to air-conditioned-room temperature. It's up to you. That's the basics. I understand it takes years to really master making sushi rice so there are plenty of subtleties I'm not even aware of much less capable of explaining.

Then comes the fillings. I sliced up half an avocado (and used no more than half of that) and slivered a scallion to go with my salmon paste. Cucumber would have been good too. Some people go for red or yellow pepper, carrots or zucchini but not me. I would have added some sesame seeds, though, if I had thought of it earlier.

Now for assembly. Take a sheet of nori and lay it out shiny side down. If you've got a bamboo sushi mat, well then you know all this so I'm going to assume you don't. I put the nori down on a cutting board, but I think that's why it lost its crunch so fast. A sheet of plastic wrap in between should help with that and with rolling later. Wet your hands and drop a lump of rice into the middle of the nori. Spread it out without pressing it down. You want a thin layer with the green of the nori visible through and an inch left bare at one end. You'll use less than you'll expect.

Then lay out the fillings at the end opposite the bare strip. This time you'll need to use a little more than you'll expect. Wet a finger and run it along the remaining exposed nori so it will stick and seal up the roll when you're done.

Once everything is laid out and ready, it's time to roll. If you used plastic wrap, grasp the edges and flip the filling-laden end of the nori over. I didn't so instead I slipped my chef's knife underneath and used that as a long spatula. If you've got an offset spatula for icing cakes, that should be ideal.

Pull the overturned section of the roll towards you to tighten it up. Not too vigorously or the nori will split, but firm enough so it holds its shape.

Finish by rolling the resulting cylinder over the rest of the rice and the exposed nori. Lay the roll seam side down and press a little to get a good seal.

Using your sharpest knife slice the roll in half, place the halves side by side and cut them in thirds.

Stand them up and if you're like me, you've got some mediocre sushi. Sushi at its best is all about balance and technique elevating simple ingredients and preparation. That's why it takes years of training. It's not really the sort of thing that's going to give exquisite results to the amateur home cook. Still, it's fun and a change of pace so worth a try now and again.


kat said...

good for you for making it at home though. We've done it ourselves too & its a lot of work but the rewards are tasty

billjac said...

I may have been a bit negative at the end of my post there. I've certainly had significantly better results when I wasn't just throwing it together with what I had in the house.

Since this post veered off into how-to territory, do you have any advice to add to my write up?