Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sundays with Sparky - Maki

When I asked Sparky what he wanted to cook next. "Sushi!!!" was the resounding reply. Now, Sparky will eat many kinds of sushi, his favorites being Ikura  (salmon roe) and Tamago (omelette) and Inari (stuffed bean curd skin) but what he of course meant in this case was making American-style maki, in particular a California Roll. Now, we'd made these together before, but of course I did all the prep work and Sparky helped assemble.

Cooking rice is tricky, and there's a lot of mise to set up for these, so I thought it would be a good lesson in prep work. I've tried a number of methods for cooking sushi rice on the stove, but settled on this recipe in Epicurious as my favorite; so I had Sparky begin by pouring 1 1/2 cups of sushi rice into a colander in the sink.

Then the rice was rinsed and stirred by hand until the water under the colander was no longer cloudy, and the wet rice was left in the colander for a half-hour TV break.   When Sparky's show was over, we poured the wet rice into a saucepan with 1 3/4 cups water and brought it to a boil.  After boiling for 2 minutes, it came off the heat and rested for 10 minutes.

During that time we prepped our mise-en-place:First, we halved our avocado by turning the avocado around the pit on the blade of the knife
- unfortunately, we immediately discovered it was a bit worse for wear and discarded it...

We went on to slice a cucumber in half (round object, first cut a flat surface) and then into long strips, and did the same with the radish and scallions. We cut Krab (surimi) sticks into quarters, and dug some masago (capelin or sweetfish roe - I really prefer tobiko, or flying fish roe if you can get it) out of the freezer.

Then we covered our rolling mat with plastic wrap, and topped it with a sheet of nori.  If you don't have a sushi rolling mat, we've discovered that a quart-size zipper-style freezer bag works quite well.  You can cut one to cover your rolling mat as well.

At this point, the rice was ready, so we dumped it into a cookie sheet to cool, and sprinkled it with seasoned japanese rice vinegar (awasezu,) fluffing with a rice paddle. I'm guessing we used a tablespoon or two of the vinegar.

We first decided to go old-school and do an inside-out California roll, so with well-wet hands, Sparky carefully squashed rice onto the nori sheet, leaving an empty inch on each end.

We then flipped the sheet over so the rice was on the bottom (easier when you have grown-up size hands, but not impossible) Then we placed the fillings near one end of the nori: Krab, radish, scallion, cucumber and mayo to replace the avocado.

The riceless nori end was then folded over the fillings, and the rolling began: you sort of tuck the roll and pull out the mat, squeezing the roll into a tight cylander as you go.

We then ended up with a beautiful tight rice roll, on which we spread tobikko with a butter knife, like it was jelly and cut in 8 slices

Next, we opted for the traditional nori-outside Maki. Same ingredients, similar process except we spread the rice a little thicker, then spread the tobikko on it. Then we topped the edge of the rice with our fillings, tucked the un-riced nori flap over them, and rolled it up. We got a nearly jumbo-sized Maki out of this one (commonly called Futomaki) but it also was beautiful.

 We capped the evening with an Argentine-style "chin-chin" toast with cucumber bottoms, and called it a day.

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