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Archive for October, 2008

How to Not Cook Fish

So a while back I bought a sushi making kit. For several weeks it has stared at me, waiting. Biding its time, knowing that eventually I would give in and try to unravel its secrets. Tonight, I opened Pandora’s sushi box.

My first stop was to Fresh Market for the software, and boy did I hit the jackpot! The fish guy had spent much time in Japan and loves sushi, so when I told him what I was doing he threw himself into getting me the best fruits de mer possible. He went to the back and pulled a portion of ahi tuna that they use for the sushi they make in house (score!) then packaged me a up a nice filet for tuna tatake (seared tuna). Then he gave me a sample of the tuna tatake they make there (nice!). I asked about the snow crab vs. king crab for a California roll and he gave me two legs for free because I was only making a small amount of CA roll. Talk about hooked up! Finally, I picked up some local Georgia shrimp.

Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

When I got home, I assembled my wares: nori sheets, rolling mat, rice vinegar, wasabi paste, pickled ginger, sushi rice, soy sauce, and I was just getting started. I sliced up my cucumber and started assembling my sushi station.

After rinsing and draining the rice several times I put in on to cook and made the vinegar/salt/sugar mix (courtesy of Alton Brown). While I was waiting I made a cute little garnish to go with the tuna tatake (more on that later.) I also cooked up the shrimp for nigiri and the crab for the cali roll.

Once the rice was done I turned it out into a wooden dish, dumped on the vinegar mixture riceand started folding it in, fanning the rice with a paper plate. Apparently the fanning thing is important. Saying that this rice was sticky is like saying that diamonds are hard. Holy crap for crap! Once it was on my fingers I had to wash my hands to get it off! Anyway, it tasted good and there was no question it would stick together so I was happy.

Me, on a roll

Me, on a roll

I launched myself into roll making and nigiri sushi making. After watching the Good Eats episode “Wake Up Little Sushi” a couple of times I figured I had it down pretty good. My ingredients were all assembled and I became a sushi making MACHINE, BABY!

I made four rolls: a traditional California roll, a not really philly roll (tuna, cream cheese, avocado) an inside out not really philly roll (rice on the outside of the roll) and a tekka maki (regular tuna roll, nori on the outside). I also made nigiri sushi (fish on rice) with tuna and the shrimp. I was going to do some with smoked salmon also but when I saw how much food there was going to be for the two of us I put the brakes on. It was already going to be an all-you-can-eat sushi extravaganza.

Tuna tatake?

Tuna tatake?

The final dish was tuna tatake. This is where I made my real kung faux pas of the night.Tuna Tatake?Tuna tatake is supposed to be slightly seared and raw in the middle. I guess I got distracted or something because mine was waaaay overdone when I cut it up. However, the garnish looks super cool and with the ponzu sauce the dish really did taste good!

Of course, no sushi dinner would be complete without a little sake to throw back! Woot!Test subject Bill and I settled in to eat and honestly it was suprisingly good. The fish was nice and clean tasting, tender, high quality. My california roll fell apart a little bit and I used too much

Too much sake!

Too much sake!

rice on the nigiri sushi but for a first attempt I think it turned out pretty darn good. My presentation skills could use some work and I’m lacking a fair amount of technique, but darn if I didn’t make some tasty fish!

Even Test Subject Bill was impressed and said it tasted very good. Trust me, if he didn’t like it he would be honest (which is very frustrating at times – just lie to me, already.)
Through the whole three hour escapade, the kitties in the house were very interested. Kitties, however, do not get sushi. But I did give in and let them have some seared tuna. Viktor tore into it and then threatened my life if I didn’t provide more on a regular basis.
I think the photos speak for themselves: there may be a new chef in town, boys. Of course, I don’t know if a white girl behind the sushi bar would inspire much confidence in the dinner crowd….hmmm….
Tekka maki and nigiri sushi

Tekka maki and nigiri sushi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

California Roll

California Roll

Satisfied Customer

Satisfied Customer

Inside out non-philly roll

Inside out non-philly roll

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As I was perusing some recipes, trying to decide what to concoct today, I came across a recipe on the Sons of Norway website for Almond or Nut Cake. Since I’m still trying to rediscover my culinary heritage or whatever I figured this would be a point in my favor. I was intrigued by the ingredients list: eggs, baking powder, sugar and almonds. That’s it. I’d never seen a cake recipe that looked like that before so I had to see if this would really work. What do they say about curosity and the cat?

The first problem was that I didn’t have enough almonds. I only had half the almond called for in the recipe. But I still wanted to try it so I halved the recipe. Maybe not always a good option. Second, I don’t have a springform pan so I figured this small casserole dish I have would do the trick. I began beating together the eggs and sugar, going after the elusive “until light” consistency called for by the recipe.

Light? Exactly what does light mean? I know what stiff peaks are. But light? Maybe one person’s light is different from anothers. Hmm. So I beat the eggs and sugar until my arm felt like it was going to fall off, folded in the pulverized almonds and dumped it in the pan.

A few minutes into the cooking time I had a bad feeling. The bad feeling got worse when I started to smell scrambled eggs. Ack! When I pulled that “cake” out of the oven and turned it out onto a plate, this is what it looked like:

This is your brain on drugs.

This is your brain on drugs.

 

Clearly, I had not beaten the eggs enough. Maybe halfing the recipe wasn’t such a hot idea, either. The egg had settled to the bottom and made itself into a nice, sugary omelet. The nuts rose to the top. This is the grossest thing I’ve produced in a long time. 

On the plus side, I made thyme bread today based on Mom’s suggestion and it is every bit as good as the rosemary bread. Maybe even better. I spread some cream cheese on it and was in afternoon coffee break heaven!

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Bread Update

I’m getting the hang of this bread thing. So well in fact that I’m starting to venture out a little bit, try new things. Last weekend I made rosemary bread. Using the same bread recipe, during the initial mixing phase I added not quite 3/4 cup of fresh rosemary that I grew myself (Ok, nature grew it. But I picked it and harvested the leaves) and because I didn’t think I had enough I tossed in another teaspoon of dried rosemary. Also, I used filtered water instead of tap water because Alton Brown says that chlorine in tap water messes with the yeast.

Man, this bread was out of this world. The flavor was amazing. I took it to a little get together on Saturday night and everyone loved it. Thanks to test subject Bill for encouraging me to do an herb bread. Weee!

Oh, also – I quit using the glass dishes to bake the bread in and instead just make loaf shapes on a cookie sheet and let nature take its course. I prefer it this way – it looks more natural, more homemade and the shape is conducive to many different applications.

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