Food Blogger Smart Cookie Challenge Part 2: Main Course
Continued from Food Blogger Smart Cookie Challenge Part 1
Main: California roll with steamed edamame
When I moved to Los Angeles in the late 90s, sushi, both authentic and Americanized, was everywhere. Angelenos couldn’t get enough of the stuff, and it seemed that whenever friends wanted to grab dinner, the suggestion of sushi wasn’t far behind. Although I had eaten raw fish once or twice since my tempura days, I found the texture unappealing, and my stance on nori was fairly unwavering. However, it was clear that I was the odd man out. Curious to understand why people thought it was incredible, I gamely went along, making myself try something new each time. Finally I found that one item that made sense to me, that gateway lump of rice and seafood that unlocked the door to a whole world of new flavors. It was shrimp nigiri, which, ironically, is cooked. After that I discovered unagi (also cooked), and then got brave enough to try other, uncooked, varieties. Now, of course, I love the stuff, including the rolls and other items made with the dreaded nori. (I still can’t do green tea, for some reason, but I guess you can’t win ‘em all.) In fact, if it weren’t so pricey, I would probably eat sushi at least once a week. I decided instead to learn to make it myself! I’ve only tried my hands at it a couple of times, and still haven’t gotten up the courage to make anything meant to be eaten raw, but I’m not half bad at putting together a tasty California roll.
Once again, I turned to the Internet for guidance in making sushi rice, which is a time-consuming, ritual-filled process, but one which I have come to enjoy. This website outlines the preparation and cooking portion of that process pretty well, as well as providing other helpful tips.Note: The above-referenced page suggests using 2 cups of rice, but as that would have left me with far too much rice, I cut the recipe in half. This was still more rice than I needed for the actual roll.
- 1 cup sushi rice (I used Cal-Rose)
- 1 ⅛ cup water
1. Rinse the rice in cold water, swirling it around until the water turns cloudy. Discard the water (or do as I did here in drought-stricken California, and use it to water your plants).
Repeat this process 2 to 3 times.
2. Discard some of the water, leaving just enough to reach the top of the rice. Gently rub the grains of rice together to polish them, being careful not to break them. (This is my favorite part of the cooking process. It’s quite calming.)
3. Add fresh water and repeat rinsing process until the water is nearly clear.
4. Pour rice into a fine mesh strainer, allowing the water to drain away. Drain for 30 minutes.
5. Return rice to pan and add the 1⅛ cup of water. Let the rice soak in the water for 30 minutes to an hour.
6. Bring water to a boil over medium heat and then put on a tight fitting lid. Cook on high for 1 minute, then turn down to medium for 4-5 minutes. Then reduce to low heat and cook for another ten minutes.
7. Remove pan from heat and cover with a cloth and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
Note: Once you have started cooking the rice, do not lift the lid, not even once, until the 10-15 minute rest-under-cloth time has ended. This allows the rice to continue absorbing moisture from the pot.
Once the rice is cooked, you need to add sushi vinegar, or sushi-su, to it to turn it from plain Japanese-style rice to bona-fide sushi rice.
I like to use the recipe I found on this site. Again, I cut the recipe in half, and it still made more than I needed to complete the California roll. This same site has a handy guide to how much sushi-su you should use according to how much rice you’ve got.
- 1 cup rice vinegar
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 2 ½ tsp salt
1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Once the sushi-su is sufficiently cooled, you’ll want to start applying it to your rice by drizzling a bit of it over the rice, and using a paddle or sturdy spatula, cut and fold the rice a few times to combine. You don’t want to stir it, or you risk breaking the grains. While you are doing this, test your multi-tasking abilities by fanning the rice. This helps to both cool the rice and cause the vinegar in the sushi-su to evaporate a little so that it sticks to the rice almost like a glaze.
Now for assembling my roll. There are special bamboo mats that are made for rolling sushi. I find that a silicon baking mat works just as well. I placed the nori squarely on my mat and covered it in a thin layer of rice, being sure to keep my fingers wet to keep the rice from sticking to them. Then I put a few strips of cucumber, some avocado, and chunks of imitation crab meat in a line right down the center.
I turned it so that I had the nori lengthwise, and using the mat to lift the edge of the nori, I rolled the whole thing gently, taking care to pull the mat away from the roll as it began doubling on itself.
I then used my trusty chef’s knife to cut the roll into its familiar, bite-sized sections. I found that, just as with fingers, it helped to keep wetting the knife blade so that it got through the roll without sticking to the rice and squishing the roll.
For my dipping sauce, I went the traditional route: soy sauce with a flying butt-load* of wasabi. If you’re not a fan of spice, I recommend using less. Like, a quarter of a flying butt-load, perhaps. The edamame were kind of a cheat, in that they came in a little steaming box that I could just throw in the microwave.
Let’s look at the total cost of this main dish:
|California Roll||Nori||1 sheet||$.40|
|Imitation crab||1 oz||$.27|
|Sushi-su||Rice vinegar||2 oz||$.35|
|Dipping sauce||Soy sauce||1 oz||$.31|
|Total per person||$2.50|
*Not an actual measurement
Next: DaifukuNote: Unless otherwise specified, the recipes used here are not mine, but belong to the bloggers whose pages I have referenced. I may have paraphrased or streamlined instructions to fit my use of them, but I take no credit for the recipes themselves.