Sushi! It’s About the Rice.

When I talk to people about sushi a common response is: Eww, I don’t eat raw fish!

First of all, sushi is not raw fish. It is the vinegared rice. Along with the vinegar, a small amount of sugar and salt is added to cooked rice.

Sushi may be made with raw fish but also can be made without meat or with cooked seafood as long as it uses vinegared rice.

In some countries, the terms sashimi and sushi may be used interchangeably, but this is incorrect. Sashimi, is usually thinly sliced very high grade fresh raw meat or seafood.

Sushi wrappers are made from dried seaweed sheets called nori. There are other wrappers made from soy, vegetables and some fruits. This provides an array of colors. Wrappers can be used for an inside wrap with a sushi rice outer casing.

The most common way it is served uses nori as an outer wrap. This dark sea green surrounds the rice in a tight wrap so it can be cut into bite sized pieces.

Sushi chefs go through years of training and apprenticeships to become a certified sushi chef. They learn all species of fish and the subtleness of their flavors. The best way to slice the meats that are used and the basic chemistry of the sauces they make. Even the technique used to when sharpening their knives. Sushi knives are flat on one side of the blades edge and scalpel sharp.

However, making sushi at home is a fun way to incorporate art and taste into one. With the help of molds and shaping devices almost anyone can make a passable sushi plate.

Recipe for sushi rice.

1 cup cooked basmati or sushi rice

2 tablespoons of rice vinegar (or 3-4 tablespoons of sushi vinegar)

1 tablespoon of sugar

¼ teaspoon of salt

While the rice is warm, room temperature is okay. Just don’t use cold rice. When working with the sticky rice (It has to be sticky or it will not stick together and you will have a mess) make sure you work with wet hands to prevent the rice from sticking to your palms.

Pack the rice into a mold on the bottom and the sides leaving a center space for your filling of choice. Imitation crab meat cucumber and avocado are good choices for beginners. Don’t over pack! It’s tempting but leave room for the rest of the rice to cover the filling.

Next press the rice into the mold firmly so that the rice is tightly compacted.

Turn out the compacted rice onto the nori or other wrappers and fold or roll until each end overlaps. Wet the edge and refrigerate to firm it up. When cutting use a very sharp knife and make sure to wet it for each cut. Plate your creation in and artistic presentation.

Sauces used with sushi

Soy sauce, wasabi paste, chili paste, ginger paste

Make your own;

2/3 cup of mayonnaise

2 tablespoons of Siracha sauce I use Sambal

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon of sesame oil

Don’t give up if the first few tries aren’t perfect. You get better with practice. I still occasionally make a mess of things and I have made sushi numerous times.

Living High On The Hog

Baby back ribs are a favorite of mine! I prefer them to the typical pork spare ribs found at the majority of BBQ joints as baby backs are the meatier of the two.

Locally, baby back ribs run anywhere between $3.50 to $5 a pound. However, my local Randall’s grocery routinely has sales on their meats. That includes ribs pretty regularly. When ever they are on sale, it’s always worth grabbing at least one rack. (I’m sure if someone watched they would think it strange that I look through the entire batch in the display freezer before I pick out the one that I want!)

There are recipes where you can sous vide the ribs for 12 hours only at ~165 degrees. I prefer to sous vide my baby backs for longer at lower temps: 152 degrees for 24 hours. I do this for a few reasons.

First, I don’t have to worry about the tenderness of the rib meat. Second, at this time and temp, the silver skin on the bottom layer will effectively dissolve. That way, I don’t have to remove this membrane from the meat, which is a real pain for my arthritic hands. The final reason is that with only smoked salt and pepper, the natural flavor of the pork comes through. As an added bonus, the liquid that come from the ribs is full of flavor and usable for gravies, soups and sauces.

I finish the full rack in a 400-degree oven. I begin by brushing sauce on them then at 15 minutes intervals I turn over the ribs to let the sauce caramelize. I do this three times. Front to back and then back to the front.

The rack of ribs shown in the pictures represents about three delicious meals for two.

Left over meat taken off the bone makes delicious tacos, barbecue sliders, or an Asian inspired dinner with a side of steamed rice.

Crispy Fry Daddy

One of my quests in ‘deep frying’ has been how do you get that crunchy crust on chicken, crunchy moist inside potato fries, without over cooking. Then only to have them get soggy on the plate just before serving.

Or not getting the breading to stick to the bottom of the fryer.

This week I finally got IT!

Double frying. As simple as that.

The coating can be simply a dusting of flour, cornstarch or potato starch. If you want to get more into the batter, I will talk about that in another post. For now I will only get into the frying part.

I use a deep fat fryer, but a deep fry pan will work just as well. The advantage a deep fat fryer for me is the temperature control. I have a Hamilton Beach home fryer. I got it on sale for under $30.00. It has been used reliably for over three years.

Seasoning is a matter of choice. Me I like to season the meat before I do the coating. That way it flavors the meat and not just the outside crust. I usually let it set with the seasoning before coating for about 15 minutes. Then I dredge it in my coating. The chicken wings shown were dredged n potato starch after sitting in minced garlic, salt and pepper.

The oil was heated to 350 degrees. When doing the first fry you do not want to crowd the wings so you need to do them in batches. You place the ‘wings’ In the hot oil one at a time. Each time you hold the pieces so it is submerged about halfway in the oil for a few seconds to set the coating before letting it go. This will prevent it from sinking to the bottom right away and having the coating stick to the bottom.  Make sure you keep your face away from the hot oil because the chicken will pop. When it gets a light crispy brown take it out and let it drain, preferably on a cooling rack. Let it cool while you fry the rest of the batches.

When all the rest are finished do the second fry. This can have all of the pieces go in at the same time. Fry until they are a golden brown. Take them out to drain. They should be crispy.

To get the best results from frying the idea is moisture is the enemy. Whether you are frying potatoes or chicken the idea is the drier the better. Oil should be the right temperature. If the item is dry and the oil to temperature there is a minimum of greasiness to the food. Because it is in the hot oil a shorter amount of time.

Usually when the food is taken out of the fryer it is still cooking and releasing the water in the food. By letting it sit a few minutes the liquid boils out. The double fry method gets rid of the crisp killing moisture. So the next fry is dryer. Sealing in the moisture and providing a crisp outer skin with a moist and tender inside.