Sushi 102: Roll a Fat One with The Virgin

After last week's tragic experiment with burning cooking sushi rice, The Virgin was tempted to give up on the whole sushi making experience. But armed with a few helpful tips, I mastered the rice technique and moved on to the main event.

If you're looking to feed picky eaters or don't trust your supermarket fish counter, the California roll is a perfect place to start. It's a wholly American invention created by a California sushi chef unsatisfied with the grade of fish available, but it makes use of ingredients more readily available in an average market.     

Things you'll need: sushi mat, cellophane wrap, sushi rice (see last week's post, or a reliable source), english cucumber, crab meat, mayonnaise, avocado and nori.

This relationship is getting too clingy.

The Virgin's DeStructions


1. Lay your makisu (bamboo rolling mat) out on a flat surface such as a countertop, and cover with a square of cellophane. Tip: If you end up with a plastic wrap covered hand or it all clings together in an unattractive lump, try keeping your plastic wrap in the freezer. It'll unroll much easier.

2.  Since the California roll is made "inside out," you'll start with the rice instead of the seaweed wrapper that enfolds most sushi rolls. Dip your hands in a small bowl of vinegar-infused water and lay down a 1/4-inch thick bed of slightly warm sushi rice the same size as a nori (seaweed) sheet. Press gently.

Don't smash the shit down, or your roll will end up pasty.

Pray that you cooked the rice correctly, or your roll could fall apart. So will you, if you've got a hungry dinner party waiting and all you can offer is sushi with rice grains dropping off like little maggots.

3. Place your seaweed sheet gently down on top of the rice. Again, don't smash it down; this is not a grilled cheese sandwich.

4. Cut avocado into long strips about 1/4 inch wide. If your avocado is too ripe, it'll be halfway to guacamole already, so give up and cut another avocado. Don't take the time to answer your phone, go to the bathroom or get your mail here. Hold all of your urges, or your avocado will start to turn a sickly gangrene color. No one wants gangrene in their sushi.

5. Lay two strips of fresh avocado lengthwise in the center of your roll, making sure you put down enough strips to go from top to bottom. Do the same with an english cucumber and the crab (or "krab," if you're a cheap-ass like The Virgin).

6. Place a thin line of mayonnaise or cream cheese down the length of the avocado/krab. A diner-type squeeze bottle works best here, but the ghetto method of a plastic baggie with one bottom corner cut off works for The Virgin. Another option would be to coat the crab/krab with the mayo, but it doesn't look as clean.

7. Lift the edge of the bamboo mat closest to you and roll it away from you so only a small line of rice/nori is visible. If you prepared the rice correctly, you should be able to release the mat back down without taking any rice with you. If not, it'll stick to the cellophane and you'll desperately try to scoop the rice back into place until giving up and throwing the whole mess away.

8. If you've got a nice log-shaped roll going, rotate the mat 180 degrees and roll away from you again, forming one solid log of stuffed rice. Ideally, you should see the crab and avocado poking out of both sides of the roll.

9. Place another sheet of plastic wrap down on your counter and sprinkle with sesame seeds or tobiko (flying fish roe). Take your finished roll and roll it in the seeds/roe until lightly coated.

10. Cut with a sharp knife (NOT a dull machete) and serve!

The result: In theory, sushi rolls aren't hard to make. But it's like a domino game. Each piece of the puzzle hinges on the previous piece, and if you screw up one step, the whole thing falls apart. My first attempt ended up like an aging rock star: lumpy and fat, with the good parts falling away. Hopefully with a little "workout" of my sushi-making skills every once in a while, I can whip myself -- and my rolls -- into better shape. 


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