Monday, June 24, 2013

Spicy Salmon Sushi!

Okay…there’s nothing inherently Cajun about sushi.  At all.  Granted, most Louisiana sushi spots have crawfish and/or oyster rolls on their menu, but other than that… not much.
However, for me, sushi and Louisiana are intrinsically linked, because I didn’t LIKE sushi until I moved to New Orleans.  But that’s part of starting a new chapter in your life.  You move to a new place, you try new things.  Sometimes, you’re coerced into trying those new things by friends.
And let me tell you, if there’s a place to try sushi for the first time in the U.S., it’s New Orleans. Or really, anywhere that’s close to a coast.  Because you’re going to get delightfully fresh seafood. No need to play it safe with those Krabmeat cali-rolls.  Just gorge yourself on Gulf-caught lemonfish, oysters, tuna, eel…okay, and throw a crawfish roll or two in there as well.  They’re delish.
It’s safe to say now that I’m a total sushi addict.  The weirder the better.  Throw fruit on it, light it on fire…sure, I’ll try it.

The “Green Monster” roll at Tsunami in Lafayette:  coconut shrimp, snowcrab, cucumber, cream cheese, kiwi, strawberry and avocado. It’s like dessert sushi.
So, being the food-nerd that I am, I decided I wanted to tackle homemade-sushi.  The Hubs (who is amazing, FYI—just in case I haven’t mentioned that before) bought me this loverly lil’ contraption called a Sushezi:
Yes, I know it looks like a lightsaber.  That’s part of the appeal.
It eliminates the need for the bamboo mat/saran wrap ordeal.  It flips open, you pack rice into each half, use the plunger part to make a hollow in the center, put in your fillings, then close it up, tighten it down (to compress the rice & make everything nice & tight), then you use the plunger to push it out onto a piece of nori, roll it up, slice, and voila, you’re done.
Wait…I’ll just show you.
INGREDIENTS: (makes two 8-piece rolls)
1 piece of salmon (3-4 oz)
2 tbsp teriyaki sauce
1 cup sushi rice
1-2 tsp rice vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar & it works fine)
Approx 2 oz fat free cream cheese or neufchatel
green onions
1 tsp siracha sauce
2 tbsp mayo
2 sheets of full size nori (or 4 sheets of hand-roll nori)

Start with your rice.  This takes the longest, so just remember—if you think you’re going to want sushi around 7:30pm, start working with your rice around 5:30pm.   You have to rinse the rice several times to remove the excess starch then let it drain in a strainer for about 30 minutes before steaming it…and then once it’s cooked it steams in the pot for another 30 minutes or so.  Your box o’ sushi rice will have good instructions.
Most important part?  Use a good pot with a tight fitting lid.  If you let a lot of steam escape, your rice WILL burn.  Just FYI.
While your rice is prepping, marinate the salmon filet in the teriyaki sauce.  Once you start cooking your  rice, you can also do your salmon.  You can opt to bake your salmon in the oven, but we didn’t want to heat up the house, so I just pan-seared instead for a few minutes on each side (use a lid to help hold in the moisture so it doesn’t dry out).  Once it’s cooked, cut it into about 4 long strips.
In this waiting time, you can also make your spicy mayo.  Just mix the mayo & the siracha together in a small bowl and transfer into a baggie for easy squeezing onto the sushi.
Once your rice is steamed, transfer it into a bowl and add the vinegar, and then mix with a spatula or wet hands.  I hear there’s fanning involved in some recipes, but we didn’t go that far.
Lightly oil the Sushezi, and then transfer about 1/2 cup of rice into it, filling each side.  Use the center plunger to press a cavity into the middle of each side and then add your ingredients.  For us, that’s two strips of salmon + spicy mayo on one side, and then strips of cream cheese + green onions on the other side.
Then, fold the two sides together, put the cap on the far end, and then use the plunger to compress the sushi.  This makes the rice on the two sides really bind together nicely.
IMG_20130623_194743 Another shot, showing the plunger.  It snaps shut, and then you turn the plunger to compress.  This one ended up a little short, so I had to compress a little further than normal.
Then, lay out your nori on a dry surface, remove the cap end of the Sushezi, and press the plunger to push the sushi roll out onto nori.  And yes, before you ask, the nori is QUITE imporant.  Since this sushi isn’t made in the normal way, it has a natural weak point at the place where the two halves were pressed together.  If you start to cut this with an inferior knife WITHOUT the nori, it’s going to start to break or flatten out.  The nori helps keep it all nice & tight.  (NOTE: The first time I tried using the Sushezi we didn’t have nori OR a very good knife, so I found this out the hard way. It was next to impossible to cut.  In a moment of panic Kitchen Improv, I used an egg-roll wrapper….but we’ll go into that some other time.)
IMG_20130623_194902 Ta-Daaaa!!!

Then, with dry fingers, roll it up.  When you get to the end, wet the nori so that it sticks to itself.
Let the roll sit for about 10 minutes and the nori will soften & bind to the roll.  Then cut it into slices with a very sharp knife that's been wetted down.
Decorate with more spicy mayo, and you’re done!
IMG_20130623_195510  IMG_20130623_195515

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