A New Love, Where Have You Been All My Life

A recent trip to Nishino brought a new love into my life.  Nishino is my favorite Japanese restaurant and sushi bar in Seattle.  It has been my birthday dinner destination for the last several years.  I love to go and sit at the sushi bar and I always ask the Chef to just feed me.  My one only request is to have the fried shrimp heads.  It is often an exercise in self control.  If only I weren't so greedy once I got there.   It's just that, well, everything is just so good, so perfect.   The key is to have only one item at a time.  I do not like my sushi brought all out all on one big platter.  Each item should be enjoyed on its own to allow the appreciation it deserves and allow your stomach to tell you when it's time to stop.  What I love about the Chef's choice is that you know you will get the best of the best and you know you'll be trying something new.  

First, I must tell you about the something new and rare I have never had before.  Fresh monkfish liver.  It had just been flown in and they served it simply steamed laid on top of a rice and nori roll.  Fantastic!  Truly a treat for us.

Now, onto my new love.  Salmon tartar on top of sushi rice fried in butter.  Fried in butter!  Soft rice in the center, crispy brown shell, butter permeating with just a hint of salt.  Sockeye salmon tartar.  Sweet salmon flavor, spicy mayo, finely minced scallions.  I'm having a little day dream reliving the first bite.  So, tonight, while the memory is still fresh enough in my head, I shall try to recreate it.  I've done crispy rice before, but never with sushi rice and not fried in butter.  How could I have overlooked that all these years?

For the Salmon Tartar:
I did not find sushi grade Sockeye salmon, only Atlantic salmon.  But I really think Sockeye would be the best.
1/3 lb piece of sushi grade salmon, cut into fine cubes
2 tbsp Japanese Mayo
1/4 tsp Sriracha chili sauce
1 tsp finely minced scallions
salt and pepper to taste
Mix everything together, let sit for 15 minutes or so before serving.

I searched a lot of different sushi rice recipes and one thing is true, the amount of rice vinegar, sugar and salt varies quite a bit.  Something I had never done before was add a piece of kombu dried kelp to the rice when cooking.  So, I decided to try that tonight.  After looking at so many different recipes, this seems to be a proportion that works.  But I always find it best to taste and adjust the seasonings to your preference.
1 cup short grain rice
1 cup water
1 piece of kombu dried kelp, a few inches square
5 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp superfine sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Rinse the rice several times and drain using a sieve.  If you are cooking on the stove, bring rice and water to a simmer.  Cover, and set heat to low.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until all liquid is evaporated.  Turn heat off and let stand for 10 minutes more to finish cooking.  Or use your rice cooker, as I did.  Combine the vinegar, sugar and salt and stir to dissolve completely.  When rice is finished, let cool slightly.  Carefully transfer to a large flat bottomed bowl.  I used one of my wooden salad bowls.  The wood is best as it absorbs excess liquid.  Gently break up the rice with a rice paddle or spatula.  Drizzle the vinegar mixture evenly over the rice and combine well.  Don't stir in a circular motion like you would do a cake batter.  Instead, gently turn the rice over onto itself.  When the vinegar is well incorporated, start fanning the rice while you give it a few more turns.  This process gives the rice a glossy appearance.  Cover the rice with a moist towel until ready to use.

I formed my rice rounds by using a bamboo sushi mat with a piece of plastic saran.  Roll the rice like you would a regular sushi roll.  Spread the rice out on the saran wrap laid on top of the bamboo mat.  Roll the rice into a thick log.  The trick to working with sushi rice is to have damp hands and a wet and clean knife when cutting the roll.  The water keeps it from sticking to your hands and knife.  Cut the rice into 3/4" thick slices.
Melt a couple tablespoons of butter over medium heat.  Fry the rice rounds until golden brown on the top and bottom, flipping once.  I could have used more butter to fry the rice.  Next time.  But otherwise, the word "touchdown" was uttered at the table.  It's a revelation, sushi rice fried in butter.  I am sure it will make many an appearance at our table.


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