I’ve never made sushi at 8 in the morning until this past Wednesday happened. Drew promised people at his work I’d make sushi, and I knew making it the night before would make it dry and not nearly as appetizing by potluck time, so I decided to make it in the morning. This, of course, was a decision made in the evening. Evening Me has all sorts of zany ideas that Morning Me thinks are absolutely horrible. I had originally planned to get up at 6:30 to give myself enough time, but soon enough 7:30 rolled around. I was really tempted to just say “screw it”, but as I know how disappointed *I’d* be if I was promised sushi that didn’t arrive, I realized I could not do that to Drew’s coworkers. So, bleary-eyed and fueled by jasmine tea, I made these babies:
It seems that being fully conscious is not actually required for making aesthetically pleasing sushi. I was rather happy with how these guys came out, especially the two rolls I made with the avocado and salmon layered on top. It’s weird, though – they looked fabulous, but eating them I realized that they were entirely too bland for my taste.
See, back when I first started making sushi, I was just happy to make something vaguely resembling sushi. I’d be all like “Yay, my rice actually sticks together and is not burnt! And the rolls don’t even fall apart!” After awhile, though, I realized that certain ingredients paired well with some ingredients, but not other ingredients. For example, while avocado is fabulous with pretty much anything, I am hesitant to pair carrot with some things. There’s flavor weirdness, plus texture weirdness. There’s also figuring out how to roll things properly. If you don’t lay things out in a good order on your roll, you’re liable to have your ingredients come squishing out when you attempt to make a tube. Pretty embarrassing, eh? At some point, I decided I really wanted to make pretty sushi, and that’s what I’ve been working on lately. However, when I am half awake, I apparently forget to add important touches, such as making sure everything actually tastes good.
Like, for example, the rolls with salmon on the inside, topped with avocado and sesame seeds. This salmon had a very subtle flavor. Same with the avocado. These ingredients desperately wanted to be paired with something that had a stronger flavor. What would really have made these rolls was a bit of spicy mayo plus scallions on top, or possibly a drizzle of eel sauce. I’d even planned to make spicy mayo, but time was short and laziness was abundant. I added flavor anyhow when I dipped them in soy sauce + wasabi, but I don’t want to rely on that alone for flavor. The rolls should taste good by themselves, with a bit of soy sauce just adding a bonus kick, if necessary.
After I made the sushi tray, these were the leftovers, which ended up being my lunch:
You know what totally worked, though? Salmon + avocado + cream cheese + scallions. This surprised me, as I am not generally a fan of cream cheese in sushi rolls. Whenever Philly rolls are around, I generally pass off most of them to Drew. The scallions made this roll really good, though. Scallions have a nice strong kick to them which combines nicely with the cheese flavor plus the mellowness of the other ingredients.
Despite the blandness of most of the rolls, as mentioned before, I was really happy with how they came out visually. Seems the secret to making successful rolls with toppings is plastic wrap. After you make the basic roll, you add the toppings, lay plastic wrap on top, and gently use the bamboo mat to press everything together. Then, making sure your knife is nice and sharp, you slice into pieces with the plastic wrap still on, and remove it afterwards.
Before, I’d have a few problems with the rolls I’d layer ingredients on top of. One problem is minor – there would be faint lines from the bamboo mat embedded in the avocado. Wrapping the roll in plastic wrap means the roll doesn’t have to be tightened quite as firmly. This is because the plastic wrap’s primary use is to hold all those toppings in place while you cut the roll. Before, I’d end up with haphazard toppings flailing around on these poor rolls, but now the plastic keeps them nice and secure. It does add a small extra step, and you have to be delicate when peeling the plastic off of the pieces afterwards, but it’s totally worth it.