Drinking high-octane Japanese rice wine while using knives sounds dangerous. But a shot of sake is part of the fun at the Making Sushi at Home Workshop.
Sushi traditionalists, who know that the Japanese raw-fish fare is prepared by specially trained chefs, would be appalled by the informality of the three-hour crash course. Professional sushi-slicers spend seven years just learning how to cut the catch, and they present it in a sticky-rice roll with every grain neatly aligned.
But who has the time for that? Instructor Doreen Moore offers shortcuts to simplify the process. Sushi chefs, for example, use their hands to craft the "rice fingers" upon which sliced fish sits for nigiri sushi; Moore uses a tablespoon. And once it's cooked, don't mess with the rice. "If you handle it too much, you'll mush it," Moore cautions.
For anyone apprehensive about eating raw fish, Moore suggests substituting smoked salmon or mackerel, whether atop nigiri or inside maki sushi (rice rolls). Or try roast beef or ham-and-cheese sushi. Hey, they do it in Japan, she says. Another option for maki: Forget the meat altogether and use vegetables. Just make sure the veggies vary in color and texture, to assure a pretty presentation when the rice roll is sliced open.
"I don't want [students] to get hung up on ritual and tools," Moore claims. "I want them to cook -- that's my mission. And [to] have fun doing it."
Moore, age 51, is used to helping people get over hang-ups; for 15 years she was a clinical psychologist. Although she doesn't have a formal culinary degree, she began taking cooking classes in the late '70s. Nine years ago she moved from New York City to Florida and went into business as a food consultant. She also taught adult-education cooking classes for the Palm Beach County School District.
Three months ago she opened the Palm Beach School of Cooking, which is geared toward hobbyists and offers no degrees. Her husband, Steve, helps run the school and does some prep work for the classes. He's a former optician with what he believes is plenty of culinary background. "I eat," he explains.
Steve says that during a break from a recent sushi class, students asked if they could go get some beer and sake. "So they ran down the block, got their beverages, and turned it into a party."
The Making Sushi at Home Workshop is offered at the Palm Beach School of Cooking, 25 NE 2nd Ave., Ste. 112, Delray Beach. The next class takes place July 1 at 7:30 p.m.; preregistration is required. Cost is $45. Call 561-279-4707.