There’s nothing like a summer grill-out, but there are many other ways to entertain al fresco when summer heat drives you out of your kitchen. Last week I wrote about how to host a limoncello party, and now it’s time to make sushi. Invite friends over for an evening of sushi and sake, a perfect pairing for a hot summer night. Not only is the light fare what most people crave when it’s warm, but entertaining with a spread of sushi fixings means you don’t need to step near an oven or grill while your company is over.
Start by sending out a custom invitation to entice guests. You can keep it simple and just include the party theme along with the place and date. Or you can invite guests to bring their favorite sake. You’ll want to have some chilled sake on hand as well, and it’s always fun to choose a wicked-sounding variety like the cult favorite “Demon Slayer.” The naming conventions for sake tend to be playful and irreverent, so don’t miss out on having a little fun with this. Besides the Demon Slayer, some of my favorites are “Black Dragon,” “Bride of the Fox,” and “Pick-Up Artist.”
*I used the Sushi & Sake Party Invitation above
To make a party of rolling sushi, you’ll need a couple of bamboo sushi mats, which you can find at an Asian specialty store for about two bucks each. And if you don’t already have them, you might consider purchasing chopsticks and a couple inexpensive sake cups, or sake masu, to make your party feel a little more festive. The ritual of pouring the sake to the rim and letting it overflow onto a coaster below gets you into the spirit of generosity that inspired the tradition with Japanese sushi bar owners.
On the morning of your party, prep enough sushi rice for the party. A rice cooker is a great way to do it in bulk—and avoid having to turn on the stove. Once it’s cooked, toss your rice with seasoned rice vinegar according to your recipe (any quick online search will turn up dozens of recipes, but here’s one, then chill in the fridge until an hour or so before your guests arrive. In the meantime, watch a quick video on rolling sushi. I randomly happened upon this one, and I found it very helpful.
Two hours before your guests arrive, set out your wasabi and pickled ginger in bowls; put out chopsticks, soy sauce, and dipping bowls; and prep most of the items you’ll use to fill your rolls. Here are some filling suggestions, though you can certainly play around with other ingredients:
Cucumber seeded and cut into matchstick width, maintaining the full length of the cuke. Asparagus blanched or roasted with a tiny bit of olive oil. Portobello mushroom roasted with a tiny bit of olive oil, then cut into matchsticks. Red or yellow bell pepper cut into matchsticks. Scallions, julienned. Avocado cut into thin lengths (wait to cut until just before you roll). Mango cut into matchsticks.
I like to arrange all my beautifully prepped ingredients on trays, and I tend to keep to vegetarian components mostly because it’s nice to not have to think about proper handling of fish on a hot day. If you do want to include fish, simply talk to your local purveyor and make sure you choose sushi-quality cuts.
Once guests have arrived and you’re ready to roll, simply wrap your bamboo mats in Saran, put a piece of nori in place, then top it with your sushi rice according to the video instructions. Then add one or two fillings, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds if you like them, and roll! Make another roll while you let the first one rest (so the nori can soften), then cut and arrange on a platter.
You won’t believe how quickly you’re turning out beautiful trays of sushi rolls. And as you’re confidence builds, you’ll find yourself getting more creative with fillings. Once you have a critical mass of rolls, make a toast to the Demon Slayer and dive in!