California Roll

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's Dungeness crab season in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. So, it is time to eat crab.

My favorite way to eat crab is to dip freshly steamed and chilled crab in cider vinegar. I ate lots of crab this year like this, so I decided to make California rolls since they are a favorite; I find them comforting since they are the first type of sushi that I ate and I used to eat them often.

Recipe: "Classic California Roll", "Master Recipe for Sushi Rice", and "Sushi Vinegar Dressing" from "The Sushi Experience" by Hiroko Shimbo.
Rating: Great if fresh real crab is used.
Status: Made twice.

For my rolls, I picked out all the meat from freshly cooked Dungeness crab (and made stock from the crab shells to be used in something else later--I don't like to waste good flavor). For the size of rolls that I made, one small crab (about 1.5 lbs uncleaned) gave about 0.8 lbs of meat, which was enough for 4 rolls (8 pieces per roll) and 4 pieces of crab nigiri. I used just under 1.5 cups raw rice = 2 rice cup measures of raw rice = 4 cups of lightly packed cooked rice.

The first time I made these rolls, I used a half sheet of nori per roll as Hiroko Shimbo recommended, but I found it difficult to enclose all of the ingredients. So next I used 3/4 a sheet of nori (she mentions in the notes that this size makes a slightly bigger roll, but she prefers the half sheet since it makes small pieces that are easy to eat in one bite); the 3/4 sheet size worked out much better for me since I was able to easily close the roll.

I think these rolls are best when Sriacha mayonnaise is included in the roll. The sauce brings out the flavor of the crab, similar to how mayonnaise improves the taste of lobster in a lobster roll. Small amounts of Sriacha mayonnaise can be made by mixing equal amounts of Sriacha and Kewpie mayonnaise and optionally a few drops of sesame oil (taste and add more Sriacha or mayonnaise as necessary).

To make these rolls: Wrap the sushi rolling mat in plastic. Coat all but the top 1/2 inch of the nori with sushi rice, and then cover the rice with a coating* (such as toasted sesame seeds) to make it not stick. Flip the nori over to make an inside-out roll. After you flip the nori over, make sure that the uncoated edge of nori underneath is located at the edge closest to you (so you will begin rolling from edge which has no rice on either side and end with the edge coated in rice). The bottom edge of the nori should be lined up with the edge of the mat (this makes it easier to begin wrapping). Spread about 2 tsp of Sriacha mayonnaise in a line across the nori, about 1/4 of the way from the bottom. Lay the ingredients (crab, cucumber sticks, and avocado slices) on top of the sauce and then roll the sushi using the mat as a guide. Slice into 8 pieces, with a slightly damp knife (clean the knife with a damp cloth after each cut to help prevent sticking).

It takes experience to make a tightly rolled and evenly cut pieces (mine are still slightly uneven, but one day I'll get there), but the pieces are still fun to make and wonderful to eat.

The recipe is available here or in the cookbook "The Sushi Experience" by Hiroko Shimbo.

* In the picture above, each roll is coated in half toasted black sesame and half aonori (seaweed powder). I like the colors! Toasted unhulled brown sesame seeds or flying fish roe is the most traditional coating, but you can also use ito-katsuo (julienned bonito fish flakes).

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