Molly at Orangette recently owned up to being intimidated by polenta, which I find to be a very reasonable concern. I haven’t tried it myself, but my friend Dave loves it, and I was duly impressed when he first called me to hear that he regularly makes it from scratch.
I, personally, have always been a bit intimidated by sushi rice. Perhaps it is because I grew up in California (where there is a lot of great Japanese food) eating sushi two or three times a week and got spoiled on restaurant rice. But I can’t be the only one, because if it was so easy, why would everyone rely on rice cookers? I have even seen microwave rice cookers – clearly a necessary dormitory accessory for college kids who are sick of Easy Mac and want to make their own maki.
As with most jaunts into daunting international cuisines, I started make inari at home because I decided that I was eating out too much. This type of sushi sometimes serves as a light dessert for me, because the pouches of fried tofu are soaked in a delicious sweet liquid.
Though you can get perfectly tasty inari wrappers at the Japanese food store, I often was disappointed because my rice wasn’t quite right. Research into those who claim to have “the” recipe for sushi rice teaches: the key to perfect sushi is to let it steam after it has finished cooking and then to keep the rice dry as it cools.
Serves: 4-6 (as appetizer or side dish)
Prep time: 40 minutes (15 minutes active)
Sushi rice recipe adapted from Alton Brown
- sushi rice (or short grain rice if sushi rice is not available)*
- rice vinegar
- sea salt
- one package of inari wrappers/fried tofu pouches**
- Put two cups of rice in a mixing bowl or very fine colander. Rinse several times with water until the water comes out clear.
- Add two cups of water and the sushi rice to a medium saucepan and set over high heat.
- In a small saucepan, combine two tablespoons rice vinegar with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 of sea salt over medium heat.
- Stir until the sugar dissolves, then remove the mixture from the heat and allow to cool.
- As soon as the sushi water begins to boil, set the heat as low as possible (just make sure the flame doesn’t flicker out) and cover the pot.
- After 15 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the rice from the stove. Leave the lid on and allow the rice to steam for ten minutes.
- In a long flat container, like a casserole dish, spread out the rice and sprinkle with the vinegar mixture. Stir quickly and then spread the rice again. (Do not use a metal dish, as the vinegar will react with the metal)
- Put the rice under a fan for a few minutes to cool.
- Stuff each tofu pouch with two to three tablespoons of rice, arrange on a plate, and drizzle with any remaining liquid from the tofu container.
Note*: Do not use any other type of rice because otherwise your rice will not end up sticky. If you are pressed for time, use microwavable rice packs or a rice cooker to make the rice.
Note**: Check the directions on the package of inari. If you need to cook them before serving, heat up the water before starting the sushi rice and boil the inari wrappers for the amount of time directed.