Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
“Sushi is sacred to me,” a friend said recently, explaining why she would never want to profane the classic Japanese dish by attempting to make it herself.
I love sushi just as much as she does—maybe more. I love its combination of fresh, clean and spicy flavors, and the contrasting textures of fatty raw fish, sticky-soft rice and chewy nori. To my mind, sushi has the best ratio of healthiness to gastronomic satisfaction of any dinner option: A maki roll will fill you up better than a bowl of kale, for not many more calories.
That’s all the more reason to make this venerated food at home, even if I can't achieve the heights of the sushi masters.
The components of sushi can be easy to prepare; the difficulty comes in the assembly. You’ll need sushi rice, nori sheets (aka seaweed), some black sesame seeds and whatever combination of fish and/or vegetables you’ll use for your filling. For this recipe, I decided to make spicy tuna rolls, with a filling of diced sushi-grade tuna, scallions and a Sriracha-mayonnaise concoction. Cook the rice, dice up the fish and toss it in the mayo, and you’re ready to roll.
The quality of the fish—especially because it's eaten raw—is very important, so ask your fishmonger for sushi-grade fish. I live across the street from a Japanese grocer, which offers many (too many!) options for sushi rice, nori and sesame seeds, but these ingredients are available at most grocery stores. (Note: Do not use standard rice; only sushi rice will achieve the desired stickiness.)
Two friends and I set to work rolling, and we tried several different types of sushi, with mixed results. We had high hopes for uramaki, the inside-out roll with the rice on the outside and nori on the inside. This turned out to be the messiest format, however, and the most difficult to cut into even pieces. Hosumaki, the thin roll with the nori on the outside and rice on the inside, turned out much better. With a little more practice—and a sharper knife—I think we could have turned out some professional-grade slices. I also had luck with temaki, the cone-shaped hand roll.
Homemade sushi is not for the dexterously challenged. Sushi rice is extremely sticky, so keep a bowl of water nearby at all times. Wet your fingers frequently. The knife must be very, very sharp; regularly dip it in water, too. A bamboo mat is great for rolling, but not necessary. We set out dishtowels on a flat surface, topped them with plastic wrap and set the nori on top. The plastic wrap will cling to the sushi as you roll it, keeping it compact and even.
When I go out for sushi, I don’t always order wine, since beer and sake can be great accompaniments. Conventional wisdom holds that sparkling wine complements sushi well, but I wanted to try something a little different. What better choice for springtime than rosé?
Rosé has enough floral and fruit characteristics to balance the moderate spiciness of the sushi, with good acidity to counter the fatty tuna. I grabbed two bottles, each in a different style, one from Provence and one from Tavel in the Rhône Valley.
Provençal rosé tends to be elegant, lighter in color and body, with delicate flavors of berries and melon. A bottle from reliable producer Hecht & Bannier was equally fruity and savory, with a focused mineral element. With bites of sushi, the wine turned more austere, losing most of its fruit flavors. It melded nicely with the spicy Sriracha, but it didn’t really add much to the flavors of the food.
Tavel rosé, on the other hand, is usually fuller-bodied and richer, its color a vibrant fuchsia as opposed to Provence’s pale salmon hue. This particular wine, made by Les Vignerons de Tavel, was beautifully creamy, with notes of exotic spice and anise. With the food, the wine maintained its delicious fruit, and its racy acidity stood up valiantly to the fatty fish, while the sushi emphasized an orange peel character in the wine. Best of all, the fish brought out a briny, saline element in the rosé that hadn’t been evident on its own.
The Tavel even tasted good when we dipped the sushi in some soy sauce. Our rolls may not have looked as artful as the sushi masters’, but if you ask me, they tasted just as good.
Pair with a robust Tavel rosé, such as Les Vignerons de Tavel Tavel Domaine de Chantepierre 2014
Total time: 38 minutes
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 8 minutes
Approximate food cost: $35
1. Clean the sushi rice: Set the rice in a colander and run water over it for a few minutes to remove the starch, until the water runs clear.
2. Place the cleaned rice in a pot and fill with enough water to cover the rice, plus a little extra. Be careful not to use too much water. Set over high heat, stirring the rice until the water begins to boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce heat to low, cover the pot and cook until the rice has absorbed all the water, about 7 minutes.
3. Using a wooden spoon, move the rice gently from the pot into a bowl. Do not scrape the bottom of the pot if the rice doesn’t come out easily; if any of it is burned, you won’t want to use it.
4. Combine the mayonnaise with the Sriracha. In a large bowl, mix the Sriracha-mayonnaise sauce with the diced tuna and chopped scallions.
5. On a flat surface, lay down a dishtowel, then top it with plastic wrap. Take one sheet of nori. Wetting your fingers with water frequently, take small balls of rice and spread them across the sheet of nori, covering one side entirely with a thin layer of rice. To make hosumaki, leave it on this side. (To make uramaki, flip the nori over so that the rice is on the bottom.)
6. Take a small amount of fish and arrange it in a thin strip at the end of the nori sheet along the short end, if you are making uramaki; or, if you are making hosumaki, arrange it on top of the rice at the end of the nori sheet. Carefully, using the plastic wrap, roll the nori, packing the fish into the middle of the roll as tightly as possible.
7. Garnish the roll with sesame seeds (for uramaki, on top of the uncut roll, on the rice; for hosumaki, on top of the fish after slicing the roll). Using a very sharp knife dipped in water, cut the roll into roughly half-inch pieces. Serve with soy sauce for dipping. Serves 4.