Last week, I was having major Western-style sushi cravings (maybe because avocado is now in season locally?). Unfortunately though, some time between mid-November and the beginning of January, my usual place changed management and no longer actually serves real crab, despite being listed on the menu. (Perhaps it was a miscommunication, but I don’t take shady-seeming substitutions lightly — especially when allergies are involved. Plus, based on the trend of their Yelp reviews, I’m not the only person who’s had a bad experience recently.) Since imitation crab is generally not okay for gluten-intolerant individuals to eat, I either had to find a new, reputable restaurant or make it myself. I chose the latter (for now at least).
It wasn’t until I saw the display of avocados — on sale! perfectly ripe! — at Whole Foods on Sunday that I decided that’s what the dude and I were having for lunch (of course he was more than cool with that). I already had a bag of sushi rice, an opened pack of nori, wasabi powder and some sesame seeds in my pantry (these items last for a long time), so the amendments to my shopping list were pretty minimal. Avocado, ahi, crab and a jar of pickled ginger. Done.
Since you need very little of the more costly fillings, it’s far less expensive than ordering it out. (Efforts to “save” money on sushi should never go this far, though. Eww, so wrong.) To reduce the price even more, I chose to use pre-steamed, shelled crab (find it in the Whole Foods seafood department’s refrigerator case, it costs about eight bucks for an eight ounce tub of claw meat) — definitely a time saver, too. Also, to further streamline the process, I typically prep all of the filling and everything else while the rice cooks and cools — regardless, the avocado should be sliced just before you’re ready to roll (oh, I just couldn’t help myself).
This is certainly one of those projects where practice makes perfect [rolls], but even if it’s your first go of it and they don’t come out looking restaurant-perfect, trust that the flavor will still be spot-on. Try not to get frustrated — yes, easier said than done when rice is stuck to every.single.kitchen.surface PLUS your hands, but it’s helpful to look at it as humorous instead of a hang up (my first few times, I found it helpful having someone around to remind me focus on the comical nature of the situation). After a quick tutorial, David, the culinary noob, managed to make a few great rolls, so I have every confidence that sushi making is appropriate for all skill levels. (If anyone wants me to make and upload a how-to video of this or any other recipe I will. Just promise not to laugh too much, OK?)
These two rolls are great for beginner sushi-eaters, too — they are what I forayed into after the vegetable roll (avocado, cucumber, carrot). And while I now have a greater appreciation for the flavor of nori, I still prefer uramaki — an inside out roll. There is a distinct difference — texture- and flavor-wise — between rice being the first thing to hit your tongue and nori.
Have fun and enjoy!
Uramaki: California and Ahi-Avocado Rolls
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Inactive Preparation Time: 30+ minutes (for rice to cool)
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Makes: 8 rolls (four of each)
- 360 grams (2 cups) White Sushi Rice
- 567 grams (20 ounces or 2 1/2 cups) Cold Water
- 28 grams (2 tablespoons) Unseasoned Rice Vinegar
- 18 grams (1 1/2 tablespoons) White Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Kosher or Fine Sea Salt
Filling (makes four of each):
- California Roll:
- 113 grams (4 ounces or about 1/2 cup) steamed Crab Meat¹, flake (chop, if necessary)
- 20 grams (4 teaspoons) Mayonnaise
- 1/2 medium Avocado, slice into long strips² just before rolling
- Ahi-Avocado Roll:
- 1/4 pound (113 grams or 4 ounces) sashimi-grade Ahi/Yellowfin Tuna, slice into long strips²
- 1/2 medium Avocado, slice into long strips² just before rolling
Cook, Dress and Cool Rice:
Place rice in a fine mesh sieve, rinse under cold water until it runs clear; drain very well. In a 4-quart pot, combine rinsed and drained rice and water. Bring to a boil, uncovered, over high heat — give it a stir on occasion. As soon as it’s boiling, stir, cover pot with a towel followed by its lid and reduce heat to low. Cook until the water is absorbed — about 20 minutes (allow to rest for 5 – 10 minutes).
While the rice cooks, combine rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small, microwave-safe dish. Heat on high power until the vinegar is warm enough to dissolve the sugar and salt when stirred (about 30 seconds); set it aside to cool. (Alternately, you may heat everything in a small pot on the stove, be sure to stir the mixture occasionally.)
Fluff rice gently and transfer to a large glass or wooden bowl (I used a 4-quart glass bowl). Drizzle vinegar mixture over the rice and gently toss to coat. Cool rice to room temperature (if the rice is too warm, it is horribly difficult to cut the rolls).
Make Crab Filling:
Mix together crab and mayonnaise in a small bowl; set aside.
Place a sheet of plastic wrap on a sushi mat (if you don’t have one it’s ok, it just makes it a lot easier to get tightly-formed rolls). Place a half sheet of nori, matte side facing up, on one edge of the plastic wrap. Moisten hands slightly with water (prevents it from sticking to you) and pat about 3 1/2 ounces of cooked, cooled rice in an even layer over the nori’s surface (it’ll be about 1/2″ thick). Sprinkle rice with about 1/4 teaspoon of the toasted sesame seeds. Fold plastic wrap over rice and flip over. Peel back plastic wrap (shiny side of nori will now face you) and arrange 1/4 of the crab/avocado or ahi/avocado in two lines down the center of the sheet. If desired, smear a tiny amount of wasabi paste onto the surface of the nori. Being careful not to wrap the plastic into the roll, fold nori/rice over the fillings so it just meets the other side. Use the mat to help press the roll into a tight, cylindrical shape.
To cut, moisten the blade of a very sharp knife (I prefer a paring knive more than a chef’s knife; David’s preference is opposite mine) with a small amount of water. Cut roll — using a sawing motion and applying barely any pressure, re-wet knife as needed — down the middle, then each half down the middle, and, finally, each quarter down the middle to get eight, like-sized pieces.
Repeat with remaining ingredients.
Serve with gluten-free soy sauce, any remaining wasabi and pickled ginger.
¹ If you want to get crackin’ go for it and buy whole crabs. Instead of making extra work for myself, I picked up a container of pre-steamed and shelled crab meat at Whole Foods. You can see a picture of the lid here. I went with the claw meat since it was about half the price — $8 for 8 ounces — of the other options; it worked out well.
³ You can buy them pre-toasted or do it yourself. To toast: Place sesame seeds in a small pot/skillet. Place over medium heat and toss just until they begin to turn light brown — they will start smelling a bit nutty. Immediately remove from heat and transfer to a small, heatproof dish (if left in the pan they can overcook from the residual heat).