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Back 40: Making sushi is easier than you think

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By Carie Birkmeier EBS Staff

Rolling sushi at home can seem like an intimidating process to the average home cook. Although many dishes at contemporary Japanese restaurants are very impressive, it’s actually pretty easy to recreate some of the less complicated rolls at home. Additionally, it’s a relatively cost-effective meal.

Rice is the main component, and aside from that, you don’t need a ton of ingredients. A cup of rice, three sheets of nori (dried seaweed), half a cucumber, a few slices of avocado, a couple ounces of fish and some soy sauce will make a satisfying dinner for two.

Follow these steps to see just how easy it is.

Make the rice on the stove
You’ll need short-grain sushi rice, which can be found at most grocery stores in the Asian food aisle. Make sure it says sushi rice on the bag—there are other types of short grain rice that won’t produce the sticky quality necessary to create a solid roll.

Ignore the cooking instructions on the back of the bag. I’ve found that the ratio of rice to water at this elevation in Big Sky is a bit water-heavy in the case of several brands.

Rinse 1 cup of rice in a mesh strainer a few times until the water runs clear. Place in a pot and cover with 1 cup and 2 tablespoons of water. Bring this mixture to a boil, reduce to simmer and cover, cooking on low for approximately 10 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat, and let it steam covered for another five minutes.

Spread the rice out onto a baking sheet to let it cool. By increasing the surface area, you allow the rice to stop cooking and prevent it from becoming mushy. Season the rice with a bit of salt and rice wine vinegar, and place in the fridge to finish the cooling process.

Prepare your fillings
What’s great about sushi is that you can fill it with whatever you want—it’s a perfect medium for getting creative in the kitchen. Some of my favorite fillings are avocado, cucumber, mango, jalapeno, and fresh sushi-grade yellowtail tuna.

You’ll want to cut your ingredients into ¼-inch long strips. In culinary terminology this would be considered a batonnet knife cut. Depending on which flavors your want more or less prevalent, you can cut certain ingredients thinner.

When rolling, remember to apply pressure without squishing the roll—practice makes perfect!

When rolling, remember to apply pressure without squishing the roll—practice makes perfect!

Get rollin’
Place a piece of nori on a sushi-rolling mat, and cover about two-thirds with the cooled sushi rice. Depending on whether you want a maki roll (nori on the outside) or urumaki roll (rice on the outside), you can either leave the rolling mat as is, or flip the nori with rice over, respectively.

Place the fillings on the one-third of exposed nori, and using the mat, slowly begin rolling the nori around the fillings, applying a light amount of pressure. Pull on the mat that now lays atop the roll, and keep rolling while continuing to apply pressure to the roll.

Nail the presentation
With a very sharp knife, cut the roll in half, and then cut the halves in half, and finally the quarters in half. This will ensure eight equal sized pieces. It’s also helpful to wipe off your knife in between cuts to ensure the rice stays white and pretty.

Consider topping each piece with a dot of sriracha or wasabi. You can also go the more Americanized route and mix either of these ingredients with mayonnaise to create a creamy sauce to drizzle over the top.

Dig in
Chopsticks and fingers are both considered acceptable utensils to enjoy sushi with. If you’re superstitious, don’t pass a piece of sushi from one set of chopsticks to another—it’s considered bad luck!

If you enjoy soy, dip just a corner of your roll into the sauce and place the roll cut side down onto your tongue to maximize the flavor.

Sushi may seem like a complicated dish to make, but it’s really one of those things that you have to make once to see how easy it is. So next time your friends are over for cocktails or game day, surprise them with a spread of sushi rolls. I’m sure they’ll be impressed with the results and excited to dig in!

Carie Birkmeier is a Graphic Designer for the Outlaw Partners. She worked as a chef at Big Sky’s Rainbow Ranch after graduating from Michigan’s Les Cheneaux Culinary School, and now keeps her knife sharp by teaching sushi-rolling classes.

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