Today, we make sushi.
Yes, I realize that there isn’t a sliver of tuna* to be seen above, and that’s on purpose…because it’s pretty clear that many folks out there enjoy eating sushi, but when it comes to handling raw fish and assembling it themselves…they’d rather leave it up to the chef behind the counter with the sharp knife and the bamboo mat.
So. Full-Fridge (read: leftovers, unconventionally topped) sushi. SOOOOOOO easy. All it takes is a little forethought, one or two kitchen things, and the willingness to eat your mistakes and keep on going.
It’s unlikely anyone will be making a documentary about your nigiri after reading this. But it will, hopefully, be delicious.
Ready? Let’s go!
Sushi is, at its heart, seasoned, vinegared rice, topped with, well, whatever. Don’t get hung up on what you’ve had before at your local restaurant or takeaway counter – you can top that rice with barbecued pork or truffled eggs or cauliflower relish and call it whatever you like.
But that rice – you’ve got to make it right, and season it somewhere in the neighborhood of how it’s traditionally prepared. Because it’s that slightly sweet acidity that flavors all the toppings you’ll be adding.
Now, Lord High Food Nerd J. Kenji Lopez-Alt suggests this recipe, which I find to be a solid base, for sure. But given that a lot of toppings you’ll be using are going be less subtly flavored than, say, a creamy slab of yellow tail, I’d use this ingredient rundown instead:
- 3 cups short grain sushi rice (or brown rice, if you’re looking to eat healthier.)
- 3 1/2 cups water (or more if using brown rice)
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar (see note)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt
- Rinse the hell out of that rice, using a mesh strainer. You’ve got to get that water clear. Put the rice into a rice cooker with the water and cook, or put the water and rice into a pot and bring to a boil, then turn the burner all the way down and cook for 15 minutes, after which you can take it off the burner and let it sit for another ten. DO NOT REMOVE THE POT LID AT ALL DURING THIS PROCESS.
- Combine the other three ingredients over medium heat until everything is dissolved.
- Now, take that rice you’ve got, scoop it – gently – into a big casserole dish. Use a rice paddle or a big wooden spoon and spread it out, gently. Don’t press down on it too much. Let it cool for a few minutes, and then try to find an electric fan, or some sucker in your house willing to wave some newspaper at you. Point your fan/chump at the rice while taking about half of that vinegar mixture and drizzling it over the rice. Cut into the rice with your paddle or spoon, and fold the rice into itself, to mix the vinegar solution into the rice. Be gentle. You don’t want ricey mush, you want whole grains. Keep the fanning going until the rice stops steaming. You want rice that comes together, barely, when you squeeze it into a ball in your palm. Keep your rice tightly covered with plastic wrap (pressed up against the rice, like you’d do with guacamole.)
Now, if that’s more of a production than you’d like, you could just make rice as you’d normally do, with less water, and just add warmed vinegar with some sugar stirred in at the end, and it’ll taste almost as good. I’m not gonna wag fingers at you.
Now, most sushi you’ve seen looks like this:
Our sushi ain’t gonna look like that. Today, we’re not going to involve nori or fish – although you’re welcome to. We’re just going to focus on leveraging what you’ve got in the fridge – and assembly.
From the top left, clockwise: Spam, cooked shrimp, snap pea, water chestnut, kimchi, bacon, heirloom tomato, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (NO JUDGMENTAL FACES) and peach.
For the record: I don’t normally eat Spam, but I wasn’t gonna go down this road without making little Spam musubis, yo. DON’T HATE.
Now, at this point, things get real, real simple. Take a tablespoon-and-a-half or two of rice, bring it together in your palm until you get a squished, elongated egg shape, and place it on your cutting board. Paint it with a little bit of sauce (soy? vinaigrette? sriracha? barbecue? It’s really going to depend on your topping) and then add your piece of fruit, protein or vegetable, trimmed to shape. And you’re done! Voila! Leftover pork-chop-nugget nigiri, anyone?
If you want to make your leftovers a little flashier, you could press your sushi rice into a square baking pan, cut it into slabs, give your sushi a little geometric appeal.
Or you could go full nerd and buy a Rice Cube.**
I honestly don’t know if assembling nigiri one cube at a time with this thing is any easier than making rolls with a bamboo mat, but the final result sure does look cool. PLUS: SQUARE FOOD. EVERYONE LOVES SQUARE FOOD.
Okay, so that one got a little squirrelly, up top.
But the Spam cube looks downright craveworthy – especially with a little hoisin sauce.
Tomato with basil and arugula vinaigrette. IN YOUR FACE.
Water chestnut with more hoisin. Textural bliss.
Kimchi and rice is pretty classic here.
So is shrimp, with a balsamic reduction.
And I’m including bacon, because, well, bacon.
Dessert sushi? How about making some of that rice a little less vinegary and cubing up some peach?
You spent all that time making delicious chow the first time – the repeat performances of your dishes and leftover ingredients deserve just as much attention – and applause. It just takes a little effort.
Hope you enjoy making it as much as I did. Let me know how it goes.
*You shouldn’t be eating bigeye tuna, anyway. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the stuff. But there’s hardly any of it left. Hold off for a few years. Let those bad boys and girls get it on, and make more fish. Chances are if we don’t do something drastic, our grandchildren will never know what a meltingly rich piece of fatty tuna tastes like. And it will be our fault.
**I was not paid a dime to say good things about the Rice Cube, and can honestly say it’s one of the few kitchen gadgets that’s really, really fun to use. And yes, your kids will totally love that thing.