Good Problems

Hey, thanks for hanging in there with the blog.  I am still doing some food-related show-and-tell, but finding other venues more fun than blogger.

This year I found various forms of micro-blogging, and realized that most of what I have to say about food is "yum!" or "Look, I made this!"  And sometimes the thought of writing up something substantial to go with that simple message took the fun out of the original experience.

Also, fitting in to a particular corner of the food/writing world is limiting.  I am tired of putting more effort into manufacturing a narrative about my life with images and words than I did into actually making food.

Most importantly, I'm finally getting busy with life here, and finding work that I like.

So, look!  I made baked oatmeal.  Yum.

See you on Tumblr, Pinterest, and Facebook.  :)

Sushi at Home

The first time I had raw fish was in Japan.  I was served family style strips of raw fatty tuna along with piles nori sheets and bowls of seasoned rice to make hand rolls at a private meal.  There was probably soy sauce available but I don't remember seeing wasabi or pickled ginger.  It was extremely simple.

My friend and I did ok with our first experience of sashimi, but didn't go in for seconds.  After waiting for the polite amount of time, one of the two older ladies sharing our platter turned to her friend and said something in Japanese that approximately meant, "I insist that you take the last of the tuna, since these American kids have such undeveloped palates."  And then they ate it all.  Fair enough.

Nat and I went through a bit of sushi phase, and it was really fun to practice by ourselves and with big groups of friends.  We used mats and presses and and saran wrap.  We put together crazy combinations and spicy sauces, glued together the insides of the rolls with mayo, and even deep fried rolls.  We made enormous, satisfying piles of rolls and impressive messes in the kitchen.  But I'm coming to appreciate the simpler approach of my first experience.  Sushi at home is going to be different, and I think in a way it can be better than sushi at a restaurant.

The main difference is that you can make up for the lack of variety, expertise and time by being really generous with the fish.  Our move closer to the ocean has opened up some options for us.  If you can, get fresh sushi grade raw fish.  Then don't go wild with combinations and sauces.  Sometimes the reason that restaurant sushi is fried and sauced so heavily is that the fish isn't fresh.  With great fish, even soy sauce should be used with restraint - just brush a small quantity across the fish, don't make a puddle that soaks through your rice.  Look for the milder version of soy sauce made specifically for sushi.  Uchi: The Cookbook is a great resource if you want to learn more.

Sushi rice can be hard to get right, especially if you don't have a rice cooker.  When I was constantly monitoring my rice in a pot over a gas burner, I found that the Han Kuk Mi brand of korean sushi rice worked better than the few other brands I tried.  Now that we have a rice cooker I feel like there's a little more flexibility.  Spreading the seasoned rice out on a baking sheet and fanning it helps it cool faster without getting smashed.

It takes chefs a long time to learn how to make delicious and presentable sushi rolls.  If you're learning, start with sushi bowls, or have everyone make their own hand rolls.  Make nigiri.  These options will get the same good flavors to your mouth faster, and keep the nori from sitting around getting soggy from the rice. (Toasting the nori helps too.)

I'm not saying not to experiment, or not to try to recreate your favorite roll.  We try something new every time - last time it was fresh shiso.  And I love looking at the recipes from Uchi for inspiration.  Just don't try to compete with a restaurant in variety and presentation, especially when you don't have the essentials under control.  That is a contest you will always lose.

Do you have any sushi advice for us?

Photo by jetalone, used under creative commons license.