Avocado

 

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Confession- I’m a walking cliche of a millennial. I absolutely love avocados. I love them on a sandwich, on toast, on tacos, in salads, and I would pretty much put it on anything. In creating this dish I had a hard time choosing between my two favorite avocado dishes to put a spin on- avocado toast and avocado sushi.

Yes, avocado toast is a relatively simple, seemingly overrated, pretentious millennial icon. I have never eaten it because of it being “healthy” or felt punished when I eat it- a perfect avo toast for me is cold, slightly underripe avocado on hot toasted sourdough, drizzled with olive oil and finished with coarse salt and pepper. That’s it, super simple, but it’s one of my favorite bites in the world.

I also have an undying passion and love for sushi. I only tried it for the first time in college at my local “Little Tokyo” and I have never looked back. Sometimes I’m in the mood for tuna or salmon but I have a little bit of trouble still eating a lot of raw fish, so avocado and California rolls are always a safe, delicious option. My favorite roll of all is a tempura tuna/avocado roll. The inside is still cold and delicious, you get the vinegar tang from the sushi rice and a crispy savory exterior from the tempura batter, along with spicy mayo and soy sauce. The combo is amazing!

So, for this dish, I decided to combine both of my favorite avocado dishes. It’s something I’m deciding to call “avocado toast sushi” which is most young people’s fantasy, and I promise the taste lives up to the hype. It’s a traditional carefully made sushi roll filled with cold avocado slices, then instead of tempura batter the exterior is coated in sourdough bread crumbs and quickly fried in butter. I added some of my favorite Japanese toppings including tempura avocado, spicy mayo and soy sauce for salt.

And now, I’ll show you how to make it!

To make the sushi:

2 cups of sushi rice
2 1/4 cups of water
1/2 cup sushi vinegar
1 whole avocado, sliced
4 slices of day-old organic sourdough bread
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)

So I’m going to walk you through this complicated process of making sushi rice- it’s more of an art form than a technique. If you’ve ever seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi or features on Nobu and other Japanese restaurants, you’ll know that making perfect sushi rice takes years and a lifetime to perfect. So, I’m going to run through a basic recipe that worked really well for me and you’re welcome to make modifications if you are looking for something as intricate and complex as Jiro’s sushi rice.

The process involves first taking your rice in a clean bowl and washing it several times to remove the starch- at first you will run your fingers through the grains and the water will turn cloudy and white. Keep draining the water and rinsing the rise and agitating it delicately until you have relatively translucent water (3-5 cycles).

Next you want to strain the rice in a fine mesh strainer to let the water run off. Leave it to dry for 30 minutes, and then we’ll be ready to start cooking.

After your 30 minute is up, grab a medium/large saucepan with a tight fitting lid and add the water and rice. Put the lid on and DON’T TAKE IT OFF UNTIL I SAY SO! It’s tempting, but it’ll effectively ruin the rice if you are impatient.

The first step is to turn the heat up to high, as if you are boiling pasta. You want to wait about 5 minutes until the water starts to rapidly boil, a white foamy mess starts to push up against the cover and it looks like it’s going to explode. You should feel reasonably at risk of danger to know that you’re doing this step correctly :).

Next, immediately turn the heat down to medium and let it cook for another 10 minutes and don’t touch it. The bubbling will stop and things will calm down and the rice will continue to completely cook through.

After the 10 minutes, turn off your burner and leave the rice to sit for an additional 10 minutes to steam as the heat gradually decreases.

Now, you can finally take the lid off! Woo! You want to take a wooden spoon or something non heat conductive to stir the rice gently to break up the huge lump you have. Then before putting the lid back on, get a slightly damp tea towel, place it over the pot, and now place the lid back on. This will let the rice cool down gradually without risk of the grains drying and becoming crunchy.

Most recipes at this point will say to let the rice to only cool down for an additional 5 minutes and then uncover the pot and transfer to a large wooden bowl/special sushi container. I would let the sushi cool slightly longer than that. Abide by the 5 minutes covered rule, and the leave the rice 10-15 minutes uncovered. You are meant to add the sushi vinegar to the rice warm in order to replace the air and moisture that evaporates, but my rice was too damn hot and it should be more on the warm side than scalding. But, as always, trust your gut.

While that is cooling for 10-15 minutes, prepare your sushi vinegar! I bought pre-made sushi vinegar so I skipped this step, but essentially sushi vinegar is just rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. If you buy prepared sushi vinegar, measure out 1/2 cup. The general rule is 1/2 cup sushi vinegar for every 5 cups of rice (even though we had 2 cups to start, the cooking process expands the rice into about 5 cups).

If you will be making your own sushi vinegar, in a small bowl combine 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tbsp salt. This will make about a half cup, but it doesn’t hurt to remeasure after your mixture is made.

When your rice is done cooling down, transfer it to your large wooden bowl. You can get a specific sushi making thin bamboo bowl at specialty cooking stores or asian markets, but I actually used a large wooden salad bowl I had around and it worked perfectly. You MUST use a wooden bowl because and material that conducts heat will mess up the cooling process of the rice, and wood is completely apathetic to heat.

Once all of your rice is in your big ass bowl, start to move the rice around with a bamboo paddle or a wooden spoon in 45 degree cutting motions. This process is super technical and one of the aspects of sushi making that requires decades of practice, so don’t worry about your technique too much unless you are a world renowned sushi chef. In that case don’t follow my recipe anyway because I’m sure yours is much much better!

You want to start agitating the rice in this manner and then gradually add the sushi vinegar, all of the 1/2 cup. This seasons the rice with a delicious vinegary/sweet sushi taste that all sushi rolls have, and it also additionally helps the rice become sticky, sushi rice’s main characteristic. Keep moving the rice around until it is evenly distributed, and you are good to go!

Place your damp towel back on top of the bowl to prevent excess drying and let it stand at room temperature until you are ready to use the rice and roll out your sushi. I snacked on a lot of the rice because you will have a lot extra if you are only making 1-2 rolls like me, so enjoy (but not too much)!

When you’re ready to roll out your sushi, uncover your rice and prepare 1 whole avocado by slicing equal 1/4 inch thick pieces. Your ideal avocado is slightly unripe but edible, so pretty firm but ripe enough to cut easily. This ensure it holds up well when you roll it out and doesn’t turn into mush.

You need a sushi rolling bamboo mat for this step, but if you are new to sushi and don’t have one lying around, you could try using a silicon baking mat, wax paper, something malleable but hefty. Just make sure, whether it’s your bamboo mat or another surface, that you cover it completely with plastic wrap to make sure the sushi doesn’t stick.

Place a thin even layer of rice over the surface area of the bamboo mat, which is about 10 by 10 inches. It helps to wet your fingers with warm water to help keep the rice from sticking to your skin as well.

Place the sliced avocado in a thin line in the middle of your roll. At this point you can add other fillings, including tuna, salmon, carrots, tomato, etc. but for the sake of the recipe, I wanted to let the avocado shine on its own.

To roll the sushi, take your rolling mat and gradually roll the end of the sushi into a tight roll forward, until you finally have a tight rice roll with no spillage that looks relatively neat. Make sure your plastic wrap stays with the mat and doesn’t go into the sushi- you will have to pull it back away from the rice as you roll. You can always even out the edges and imperfections later. Rolling out sushi is really tricky, so you may want to practice on another less important roll first to perfect your technique. Again, sushi is a super technical art form so don’t be too hard on yourself if it comes out looking a little wonky.

When you are happy with your roll, wrap in plastic wrap and place int he freezer for 5-10 minutes. Normally you wouldn’t do this, but because we’re making avocado toast sushi, this step will be important in making sure the avocado and rice stay in tact while we fry the crispy bread-coated outside.

Speaking of which, while the roll cools, let’s get our breadcrumbs ready. I’m using my favorite avocado toast bread and you should too- whatever has the taste and crunch that you associate with that delicious breakfast. Mine is rosemary sourdough, which I’ve used before, and alway shave on hand in the fridge. It’s from Borealis bread and some of the freshest, most delicious carby goodness I have ever had.

Take about 3-4 pieces of your bread, depending on the size, and blitz in a food processor until you have a semi-fine crumb. Don’t over blitz it or it will become too dusty and powdery.

Place the breadcrumbs in a large shallow bowl/plate for coating the roll.

Once your roll has cooled, remove from fridge and take off the plastic wrap. Start heating a pan with your butter and a little oil over medium high heat. Coat your roll generously with your breadcrumbs until you can no longer see the sushi grains.

When you are ready, shallow fry your roll in the butter/oil for about 20-30 seconds on each side until the whole roll is golden brown and crispy. It’s important to have the heat pretty high so that the outside cooks quickly and the chilled rice and avocado stays cool and doesn’t melt out into a rice mess.

Take your roll out and place on a paper towel covered surface to cool until you are ready to serve. Next we are going to make some toppings for our delicious, buttery avocado toast sushi- first is tempura fried avocado, so don’t discard your butter/oil pan just yet unless it is a crumby mess.

To make the tempura avocado:

1/2 cup AP Flour
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 egg yolk
1/2 tbs salt
1/2 cup ice water
1 whole avocado, sliced and chilled

One of my favorite Japanese foods is tempura vegetables and shrimp. Even tempura coated fish in a taco is so crispy, tender and delicious, so tempura frying really is a delectable (not so healthy) frying technique that works for a lot of things.

Since we’re frying avocado, which is pretty delicate compared to most things, it’s important to make sure your avocados are still pretty firm but not inedible. Cut it into small thick pieces like the ones pictured and place in the freezer to chill for at least 10-15 minutes. This will help it stay together when we fry and stand up to the hot oil.

Next let’s make our tempura batter!

Recipes for tempura vary a lot based on ingredients- rice flour vs. AP flour, water vs. club soda, baking powder vs. cornstarch, etc. but this recipe is super simple and delicious/crispy.

All you have to do is combine your flour, cornstarch, egg yolk, ice cold water and salt and mix. Make sure your water is really cold but don’t let any ice pieces sneak into the batter- hot oil and water are NOT friends, so having a piece of ice in hot oil is potentially disastrous.

Heat the pan you used for frying to sushi roll over medium/high heat with a thick layer of oil. Luckily tempura batter is so light that even though the pan is relatively shallow, it will float on top and still cook as if in a deep fryer- and it will save you a LOT of oil.

One at a time, dip your avocado pieces in the tempura batter and add to the hot oil. Cook for about 1-2 minutes, flipping once to ensure the whole surface area is golden brown. Depending on the heat this might take shorter/longer but just keep an eye on it.

After all of my avocado was fried, I had leftover batter and got a little creative. I took a fork and drizzled thin abstract lines of batter into the oil to make crispy garnish for the sushi. The shapes end up really cool and bubbly and artsy so go wild!

Next we’ll make the remaining garnishes.

To make the spicy mayo:

1 egg yolk
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup Sriracha
1 tsp soy sauce

Spicy mayo is such an essential part of eating sushi for me. The flavor is creamy, buttery, spicy and sour and it’s addictive. I love it especially with pork tonkatsu (fried in panko crumbs) or with tuna, and it fits perfectly in this Japanese/brunch hybrid dish.

Making homemade mayo isn’t necessary for the recipe, you are welcome to use jarred mayonnaise. In fact, kewpie mayo, Japanese brand mayo (which contains MSG and has a different more savory taste) would be delicious, and you can find it at most Asian markets.

For my recipe I decided to be super extra and make my own mayo. Surprisingly, this is actually really easy, thanks to the mayo master Matt Preston who makes it with a stick blender almost every episode of Masterclass on Masterchef Australia. It’s really cool to see and almost instant. If you don’t have a stick blender, you can try using a food processor, you just need something A) that is really powerful and fast, and B) has an opening to gradually drizzle in oil for emulsification.

In a stick blender, first add a whole egg yolk. One really helpful tip for making sure the yolk doesn’t break on the descent is to tip the cup on its side and slide the yolk down gently instead of dropping it from up high. Next, add your vinegar, mustard, and salt.

After this you will add all of your oil to the top and it will naturally levitate above the other ingredients. Using your stick blender, with it still off, place the head/blade directly on top of the egg yolk. Now, turn the power on and blend, raising the blender gradually all the way up the cup until you have incorporated all of the oil. If you are successful, you will watch the oil get sucked into the egg yolk mixture and emulsify in seconds until you have a thick homemade mayo.

Again, making mayo for the first time can be pretty difficult, and if you don’t have a stick blender (also known as an immersion blender) and other methods fail you, honestly just give up and use store bought mayo. Don’t torture yourself.

Once you have your mayo ready to go, add your Sriracha and soy sauce and mix into a beautiful orange spicy mayo. Pretty simple once you get past the mayo making!

To make the lemon pepper “caviar”: 

1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tsp honey mustard
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp agar agar
1 cup canola oil, chilled

So, this step is totally optional, and so optional that even I forgot to add this component to my finished dish. It sat in the freezer all day waiting for me, but unfortunately, my scattered brain completely forgot it.

BUT! If you feel super ambitious and over the top, like I do most days, this is a really cool and fun thing to make.

This process is called spherification, and it’s a little exploration into molecular gastronomy (food science). The basic science is that a liquid mixture including agar agar dropped with a pipette into a super cold bath of oil will naturally turn into a sphere and hold its shape into a faux caviar that can taste like anything you want.

First, and ideally several hours before you start, or even overnight, place your oil in a small bowl and let it chill. Either you can put it in the freezer to chill quickly for a couple hours, making sure it doesn’t freeze, or you can leave your oil in the fridge overnight.

To make the caviar mixture, you can combine any liquid with agar agar, which is a scary sounding science-y product derived from algae, so it’s totally natural. It’s thickening properties are activated through heat. Mix together whatever liquid you want, and heat gently, adding the agar agar until it dissolves, and then cool the mixture to room temperature.

For my “caviar” I used a lemon based spicy/sweet sauce that reminds me of both the flavor of fresh squeezed lemon on avocado toast and the umami flavors in Japanese cuisine. It’s really intense and bold and hot and perfect for small bursts of flavor in your mouth. I added paprika for color to make sure the spheres looked like realistic bright orange fish caviar.

To pipe the dots into your oil, you can use a pipette if for some reason you have on lying around, but I am not a scientist, so I used a squeeze bottle with a really small tip. It helps to pipe 3-4 small dots quickly on top of each other to form into one normal sized caviar sphere. Make as much as you want, go crazy!

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To plate:

“Avocado toast” sushi roll, sliced
Squeeze bottle of spicy mayo
Tempura avocado
Tempura crisps
Small sushi rice pieces
Sesame seeds
Fresh chives
1 tbsp soy sauce

To plate this delicious dish, you want to start with a smear of soy sauce on the plate. It provides a nice salty backdrop for the rest of the dish. Add your slice of sushi and place around the plate the tempura avocado, tempura pieces, small clumps of sushi rice to reinforce the cold, vinegar flavor, and garnish with spicy mayo, chopped chives and sesame seeds.

And you are all done!

Here you have your new favorite food- a hybrid between avocado toast and sushi that is sure to appeal to any avocado obsessed foodie. It’s the ultimate millennial food, the billboard icon for bourgeois food trends, but it’s absolutely delicious!

There’s constant textures and flavors of avocado, our main ingredient, with the flavor of delicate cold sushi rice, complimented by rich, hot, buttery bread crumb crust, warm and tongue tingling spicy mayo and a savory umami crunch of garnish.

Unfortunately all of mine is now gone because it at the entire thing for lunch on one rainy day, but I will gladly make this again when I get the hankering for a delicious Japanese-American brunch.

And next time I will remember the caviar in the freezer…

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