Thursday, February 12, 2009

(Not) Cooking For My Wife

These days, my wife is in cooking school and I am hardly the one cooking around here. However, let me try to break that trend with a new post! Unfortunately, despite the name of my blog, there's not much real "cooking" going on here, but the result is delicious just the same.

I bought some really beautiful fish from Monterey Fish Market at Pier 33 in San Francisco. Their location at Pier 33 is a wholesale operation, but they do have a retail store in Berkeley. They have some of the best seafood I've ever seen or tasted. If you're in the Bay Area, you should really check it out sometime. We bought about 1 pound each of maguro (tuna), sake (salmon), hirame (halibut), hamachi (yellowtail), and hotate (scallop).

The most complicated thing about this was the sushi rice. Contrary to popular belief, sushi has nothing to do with raw fish. It refers to the sushi rice (su meshi in Japanese means "tart rice"). Once the rice is finished (use less water than you normally would use for steamed rice), you are to mix vinegar mixture into the rice while fanning it. I made the full recipe of the vinegar mixture, but ended up only using half. Looking back, I think it could have used more vinegar.

Cutting the fish is a different story. There is a reason why sushi chefs train train for years and why their knifes have to be so specialized. It took me a long time and knife experimentation to skin the fish and cut appetizing peices of sashimi. I am not going to try to explain how to cut the fish here because I am not an expert and I don't want to give the wrong information. Suffice to say, you usually want to cut at an angle across the grain. I ended up messing up a few peices of tuna which became inedible.

At first I tried a sashimi knife given to me by my friends several years back, but the blade was not sharp enough and it wasn't slicing as cleanly as I would have liked. I then used my wife's Global chef's knife, but while that was definitely sharp and thin, the blade was too wide and the flesh dragged on it while I cut. I ended up using a thin boning knife. While it was both sharp and thin, the placement of the blade relative to the handle made it difficult to work with on the cutting board.

To make things easy, we did everything chirashi style. Rolls or nigiri would have taken up even more time, and we wanted to eat as soon as possible! All-in-all, I was most impressed by the scallops and hamachi. I've done sushi at home before, but the quality was never like this! Next time, I want to try ama-ebi (spot shrimp) and uni (sea urchin gonads). (Yes, I wrote gonads.)

Paired with a flight of sake, of course

Sushi Rice
2/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 sq in kombu (optional)
4 cups warm, steamed white rice

1. Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, and kombu in a small pot.
2. Place over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar and salt are dissolved.
3. Transfer the warm rice to a wide nonreactive bowl. Toss the rice with a rice paddle as you fan it.
4. When clouds of steam are no longer rising from the rice, but the rice is still warm, drizzle in some of the vinegar mixture.
5. Keep tossing and folding the rice mixture and drizzling the vinegar mixture to taste.