Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sushi: Sashimi, Nigiri and 4 Rolls

Serves 2 sushi fiends, with about 8 pieces left over

Fish procurement

You'll get more adventurous as you do this, but you can usually get good quality tuna and salmon at Whole Foods. Neither can have been frozen. Salmon is finicky, so make sure it's not cracking—don't buy it if it is. Ask the purveyor what is sushi grade, and they should be able to point you in the right direction. In Boston, there's a very good fish market called "The New Deal Fish Market" in Cambridge. But even here, they haven't had anything sushi grade beyond these three fish.

Special equipment:

  • Bamboo sushi mat (only if you are making rolls)
  • Very long, sharp knife, preferably single-side blade


  • 4 sheets nori
  • Fish (recommended): N.B. you will need more fish than you will actually eat. In order to get the fish to cut well, and look nice, you will end up with excess that is difficult to use for sushi. These recommendations allow for slightly imperfect shapes of fish, and some error.
    • ½ pound tuna
    • 1/3 pound salmon (skin removed
    • 1/8 pound fluke
    • 1 container high quality crab (plan on what you will use the leftovers for, as you'll have a lot left over)
  • Avocado, cut into 1/3 – ½ inch strips
  • English cucumber, cut into ½" strips, then cut diagonally, so you have a very long triangular "tube"
  • Cilantro, washed, stems attached (but no roots or dirt)
  • Spicy Mayonnaise; Mix the following together in a small bowl.
    • 2 T mayonnaise
    • 1.5 tsp hot chili sauce (Sriracha)
    • ¾ tsp sesame oil (hot if you have it)
  • Sushi rice (see recipe)
  • Prepared wasabi
  • Prepared, pickled ginger
  • Low Sodium Soy Sauce
  • Su water: Mix vinegar and water in a small bowl, and keep to side. This is what you will be using to keep the rice from sticking to your fingers and your knife.
    • 2-3 tsp Rice vinegar
    • ~ 1 quart water


Given that you are working with raw fish, it's important to make the sushi in an order that leaves the fish exposed for as little time as possible. The following is the best order I have found:

  • Make nigiri "pods", do NOT add fish
  • Make California rolls
  • Make tuna rolls
  • Make salmon rolls
  • Cut fish for nigiri and sashimi

After making each roll, re-wrap fish, and put back into refrigerator.


  1. Dip your hands in the su water (you will do this for each piece of nigiri you mold.
  2. Take 2-3 tsp of rice into the palm of one hand. Press into shape with the other hand. Adjust the shape as desired. You will have a rectangle with rounded edged. These nigiri are smaller than restaurant nigiri. If you're like me, this is a wonderful thing, b/c restaurant nigiri is way too big.
  3. Place on service place
  4. Add a small amount of wasabi to each piece of nigiri


  1. Place nori shiny side down on the bamboo mat, with the edge lined up along the bottom of the matt. The wider side of the nori should be along the bottom of the mat.
  2. Dip hands in su water to coat, and repeat as necessary.
  3. Place rice along bottom half (the half closest to you) of the nori. Thickness is up to you, but I recommend 1/6", this will give you a tight, restaurant-sized roll
  4. Place Filling in center of rice band:
    1. California rolls:
      1. Cucumber, avocado, crab, cilantro (optional)
    2. Spicy tuna rolls:
      1. Add spicy mayo in a ¾" strip down the middle of the rice. Add ½" x ½" x length piece of tuna, Add several cilantro sprigs
    3. Spicy tuna rolls with avocado:
      1. Same as above, but with avocado added
    4. Spicy salmon rolls with avocado
      1. Same as spicy tuna with avocado
  5. Put away each piece of fish before moving to the next type
  6. To roll:
    1. Pick up the mat, and tightly roll the sushi.
    2. Continue to roll, until last ¼"
    3. Moisten finger with su water, and place along the edge of the nori to create and adhesive to "seal" the roll
  7. Wrap each completed roll in saran wrap and put into the refrigerator
  8. Once all rolls are completed or prior to serving, remove and cut each roll into 6 pieces. Do this BEFORE you cut the fish for nigiri or sashimi

Sashimi and Nigiri Completion

  • Remove fish from refrigerator as needed only. Start with the least delicate fish (usually tuna), and move to the most delicate (fluke in this case)
  • Trim each piece of fish as needed, so that you have a "block" of fish that will allow you to cut clean rectangles
  • Place the knife to cut a 1/6" to 1/8" piece of fish. You'll want to cut such that you can see the "grain" of the fish, i.e. you should see a cross-section of the striations of muscle for each piece
  • Cut in a single motion, if at all possible
  • For delicate fish like fluke, cut on a bias to get a wide enough slice of fish
  • Arrange pieces on top of nigiri
  • Arrange pieces on plate for sashimi

Sushi Rice

Makes enough with left over for 12 nigiri, and 4 rolls

The rice will take approximately 70 minutes, start to finish (not labor intensive, just time intensive).

  • 2 ¼ cups short grain rice
  • ½ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 T Mirin (Japanese sweet sake/cooking wine
  • ¼ cup sugar

Cook rice in rice cooker, according to directions. 2 ¼ cups is equivalent to 3 of my "rice cooker cups." Once cooked, turn off heat and allow to sit covered for 20 minutes. Move rice to a large bowl, being careful to remove any browned rice grains.

Meanwhile, in a small nonreactive saucepan, combine the vinegar, mirin, and sugar and heat over medium heat until hot, about 5 minutes; do not allow to boil. Keep hot.

Move rice to a large bowl. Mix in ½ of the vinegar mixture using a light lifting motion to avoid crushing the rice. Taste, and add more if necessary. Should have a sweet, slightly acidic edge. Mound loosely, and cover with a wet paper towel. Allow to sit covered for 20 minutes to allow flavor to develop.


Pockey’s Cajun Rice Dressing

As a bit of introduction, Pockey is Roy's step-father from Marksville, Louisiana. Marksville is pretty much the North Pole of Cajun country. But its northerly latitude in no way impacts the quality of the Cajun food. From what we can tell the Lafargue family, and Pocky in particular must be some of the leading culinary lights in the area. The recipe below represents my best attempts to duplicate Pockey's rice dressing. He has very graciously given me the recipe, but unfortunately there are some key ingredients that are impossible to obtain outside of Cajun country, notably, "Savoy's Dressing Mix," a mix of gizzards and spices that adds significantly to the dish. But this is pretty good (if I do say so myself).

Serves 6

  • 1 pound package Jimmy Dean HOT sausage
  • Optional, but highly recommended if you have it: 1-2 turkey livers, thoroughly minced.
  • 1 medium onion, cut into a ½ inch dice
  • 1 smallish green bell pepper, cut into a ½ inch dice
  • ½ jalapeno, minced into an 1/8 inch dice
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced into a paste
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp celery salt
  • 1-2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 bunch green onions, green parts only, sliced into 1/8th inch slices
  • 1 ½ cups medium or short grain white rice, cooked according to package or rice cooker directions

  • Tony Chacheri's Cajun Seasoning, salt and pepper to taste

On High, Thoroughly brown the sausage, ensuring that it is very well broken up. Once browned, pour off grease. Add onions, peppers and garlic, and sauté on medium-high until onions are translucent. If you have liver, add now, and cook until well cooked and thoroughly interspersed. Add Worcestershire, mustard, and celery salt. Continue to sauté 1-2 minutes. Add chicken broth so that it is just at the level of the top of the meat. Cover and sauté on medium low for 30 minutes, or until all liquid has evaporated. Adjust seasoning. Mix dressing with half of rice. Assess if you would like a lighter dressing. If so, add the remainder of the rice. Mix in the green onions, and adjust seasoning to taste.

Possible variations:

  • 1 can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup
  • 1-2 stalks of celery cut into a ¼ inch dice
  • Ground Thyme