Friday, March 2, 2012

Let Them Eat Sushi Cake

A Festival

Hinamatsuri Doll Festival is celebrated in Japan with a display of dolls and special foods. Nansai sensei, my cooking teacher, knowing my time in Japan grows short, wanted me to have a few recipes to enjoy on this occasion. I also let her know of my success with making oden with my sous chef assistant husband. She seemed thrilled, but she did say oden is for celebrations or at least guests. I told her it was an occasion to have my husband home and in the kitchen to boss around. I think she liked that.

Sushi Cake

We can all make her lovely sushi cake! It's beautiful, tasty, and healthy. The name is a bit of a misnomer as the cake is not made with sushi as in raw fish but with sushi rice. The meat and vegetables are cooked before being added.

There are three layers to make. First into the pan is the egg layer. This becomes the top of the sushi cake when you remove it from the pan. Take care to leave the egg layer moist. Soft eggs are a good match for the vinegar rice that will sit next to it. The trick is to cook the eggs over medium low heat, keeping a damp towel on the counter to use as a cooling pad if it cooks too fast, return the pot to the heat as needed. Stir constantly with three or four chopsticks at once to prevent the eggs from clumping. To maintain the consistency, continue stirring even after removing it from the heat. Allow it to cool down before pressing it into the cake pan.

Add one layer at a time to the pan, pressing each layer firmly and evenly. A twenty-one centimeter (8 inches) pan with a removable bottom was used so an eight inch spring form pan should work for American cooks.

The main layer consists of rice with awasezu sauce which is mixed into the hot rice and then allowed to cool down as is done for sushi. Slightly ground sesame seeds and boiled rapini (rabe) also common in Italian cooking are then added. Broccoli or spinach could be substituted. This layer is divided in half and is separated by a chicken layer.

The chicken layer begins with ground chicken and sauce cooked in a pot over medium low heat. It is prepared by stirring with three or four chopsticks to prevent clumps from forming. Top with the remaining half of the rice and press firmly into the pan. Remove the cake from the pan and garnish with vegetables. This is a healthy, festive, and delicious cake. It pairs well with a clear soup, spring vegetables, and mochi sweets. It is great for a picnic, party, or special day. Slice into wedges to serve, and don't forget to put away your Hinamatsuri display at day's end.

Idatakimasu I humbly receive,
Aki Nansai's recipe for Sushi Cake perfect for Hinamatsuri Dolls Day celebrated on 3/3

Sushi Cake by Aki Nansai

Kombu Seaweed, 1 stick (2 x 6-inches)
Rice (short grain Japanese), 3 Japanese rice cups or 2 ¼ cups!
Kombu Water, 3 Japanese rice cups or 2 ¼ cups! total (to include 3 Tbsp of Sake)
Sake, 3 Tbsp
Rice Vinegar, 60 cc + 10 cc (to make up for the amount the carrots absorb)
Sugar, 1 Tbsp
Salt, 1 ½ tsp
Carrot, ~⅛ inch (5 mm) thick flower cut x 8 flowers (~½ carrot)
White Sesame Seeds, 3 Tbsp
Nanohana Rabe or Rapini, ~2 cups then boiled, drained, chopped (save 8 florets)
Ground Chicken, ~9 oz/250 gm
Soy Sauce, 2 Tbsp
Sugar, 2 Tbsp
Mirin, 2 Tbsp
Sake, 1 Tbsp
Eggs, 6
Sugar, 3 Tbsp
Salt, 1/2 tsp

8-inch (21-cm) round springform pan with a removable bottom
Damp towel by the stove to cool down the pot.

What to do
  1. Soak kombu in water for about 1 hour. Save the water to cook the rice. 
  2. Wash the rice three times and drain x 30 minutes
  3. Stir together the vinegar, sugar, and salt to make the awasezu sauce.
  4. Cut the carrot with a flower shaped cutter, boil it, and then soak it in the awasezu sauce. 
  5. Dry roast the sesame seeds, stirring a bit, about 3 minutes. Grind them gently in a suribachi bowl to release their aroma, about 1 minute.
  6. Place a damp towel, folded like a hot pad, near the cooking area to cool down the pan as needed.
  7. In a pot over medium low heat, stir together the chicken, soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and sake until the sauce is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Stir with 3 or 4 chopsticks to prevent clumping, cooling the pot down as necessary on the damp towel to prevent it from cooking too quickly.
  8. Whisk together eggs, sugar, and salt. In a pot over medium-low heat, add egg mixture and stir continuously with 4 chopsticks so as to break up the eggs and keep them broken apart. A spatula is also helpful-- spread the mixture and scrape the mixture repeatedly to keep it smooth. Cook it slowly, about 10 minutes. Cool the pot down as necessary on a damp towel to prevent the it from cooking too quickly. The eggs should sound wet when you are stirring them. They will be moist, wet looking, and bright yellow. Remove from heat and stir a few times to be sure that the eggs stay broken apart while cooling.
  9. Wipe clean a pan with a removable bottom. 
  10. Cook the rice: Mix together the rice and liquid (kombu water & sake) which should be of equal amounts- cook on the stove top in a heavy bottom pot with a tight fitting lid or in an electric a rice cooker. 
  11. Boil the rabe, drain, and squeeze out water.  Save 8 florets for a garnish and chop the remaining finely.
  12. When the rice is cooked, dump it into a wide shallow bowl to cool gently- may fan or use a damp cloth. Remove the carrots from your awasezu sauce and pour the sauce over the rice. Use a rice paddle and chopsticks to stir so that the rice won't clump into a ball. When the rice is shiny and cool, stirring with rice paddle and chopsticks, mix in the chopped rabe and sesame seeds. Divide in half.
  13. Using a plastic dough scraper, place the egg mixture into the cake pan. Press from the center outward, along the edges, and then down to form a tight even layer. Next add half of the rice mixture and again use the plastic dough scrapper to press evenly from the center outward, along the edges, and then down to form an even tight layer. Repeat this method with the cooked chicken and then the other half of the rice mixture. Finally, press firmly down on the whole cake evenly.
  14. Turn out the cake. Use a long knife to cut along the edge of your cake pan to assist in the release of the sushi cake from the pan. Place a serving platter on top of the cake pan. Invert the pan and gently remove the pan. The bottom will still be in place. Again use the knife to cut between the pan and the cake to facilitate the pan's removal. Remove it. Garnish the top of your sushi cake with the carrot flowers and the rabe florets. Cut into 8 pieces and serve.
A slice of Sushi Cake to celebrate Hinamatsuri
Clear soup made with clams, mitsuba, a small piece of yuzu peel, and ofu  (the flower)

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