Tonight was fun. Super fun! I walked into a 100-year old warehouse in Chelsea between 11th and 12th Avenues not knowing what to expect. It was at the invitation of my friend Jill who had won a sushi-making class at the Dean & Deluca corporate kitchen. It was a Facebook promotion she'd randomly entered, and I was one of the lucky +3 that got to "roll" with her - thanks, Jill!
As the elevator doors opened on the 6th floor of this no-name warehouse and we walked into a Top Chef rivaling industrial kitchen, we were immediately greeted by sushi Chef Tracy Griffith (also an actress, singer/songwriter, and half-sister to Melanie), Mark Daley the CEO (!!) of Dean & Deluca, and their Executive Sous-Chef among a few others. It was champagne all around as we staked out positions around the table and got ready to roll up a few "American-Style" (read: raw-fish-free) rolls.
I've lived in Japan and I've eaten my fair share of sushi inside and out of the country (my absolute NYC favorite is the omakase sushi at Gari on the UWS), but I've never rolled it myself. When I worked at Cosmopolitan I'd stare in awe at the sushi guys who created perfect roll after perfect roll for hungry magazine staffers in the Hearst cafe (in minutes!) - but I never thought to make it. Turns out? It's SUPER FUN.
We were introduced to Tracy's method of sushi-making: with no raw fish, and little seaweed to be found (instead she uses vegetable-based wraps nori-like wraps). We made an inside-out "Cowboy Roll" (grilled skirt steak, blue cheese, baby spinach and red onion wrapped with nori), a "Mexicali Roll" (marinated skirt steak, monterey jack cheese, tomatoes, scallions, black beans and cilantro in a corn wrap), a "Caesar Chicken Roll" (roasted chicken, romaine hearts, caesar dressing and fried onions in a corn wrap) and a modified "Rooster Roll" (Shredded chicken, scallions, red bell pepper, roasted peanuts and sweet thai chili sauce). And let me tell you, we ATE as we went along because THEY WERE DELICIOUS. At first I was skeptical of this "Americanized" sushi, but the flavors were big and her citrus and jalapeno-infused soy sauces were the perfect pairing.
By the end of the night I was a sushi rolling pro, and - stuffed to the gills - we were presented with to-go boxes for our creations, our own bamboo sushi rolling mats, and signed copies of Tracy's book Sushi, American Style.
[Oh, and I made friends with the Executive Sous-Chef who snuck me into the walk-in and sent me home with 6 Dean & Deluca cookie dough balls. Love. Him!]
It was a super unexpected and fun, and all of us were (very) pleasantly surprised. Thanks Dean & Deluca, for a great Wednesday night!
My favorite roll of the night was the first one we made - not sure if I was just hungry, but the combo of the steak and blue cheese was fantastic. If I learned one thing it's not to be intimidated by sushi - it's very easy and really not bad for you if you keep the rice "light." So throw some rice in your cooker, pick up some nori at the market and give it a try. I definitely will be.
[Apologies on the poor photo quality - all I had on me was a Blackberry!]
Cowboy Roll with Jalapeno Soy Sauce
by Tracy Griffith of Sushi, American Style
1/2 cup sushi rice, prepared
1 1/2 sheet nori
2 oz. skirt steak, grilled medium rare, sliced into strips
2 tsp. blue cheese
1/2 cup baby spinach, chopped
1/4 red onion, sliced thin
1 tbsp. pink peppercorns, husked
- Lay nori on mat
- Press sushi rice over whole nori sheet
- Sprinkle with pink peppercorns, flip nori over
- Spread a thin wipe of cheese down center of nori, horizontally
- Lay in spinach over cheese
- Lay in onions over spinach
- Lay in steak over onions
- Roll and cut into 8 even pieces
- Serve with jalapeno soy sauce