When it comes to cooking skills, sashimi making definitely falls on the “out there” end of the spectrum. Armed with a few bottles of fish-friendly wine (Prosecco, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot Noir), we arrived at the BCAE, where Chef Tony Messina of Uni would be teaching a class of 12 the ins and outs of sashimi. Over the next few hours, the adventurous students would learn how to find, break down, and prepare a variety of whole fish. We learned that above all, attention to detail is key in sashimi making, and we’re here to share a few of the tips and tricks we learned throughout the class.
1. How to find a fresh fish: Fresh ingredients are the foundation for any great dish, and sashimi is no exception. Chef Messina recommends heading to your local fish market and selecting fish with clear eyes; clean, red gills; and slightly stiff from rigor mortis (to indicate that it was recently caught). Don’t be afraid to take a whiff either – it seems counter-intuitive, but fresh fish shouldn’t smell fishy. If you smell nothing, or salt water, then you’re good to go.
2. You can use the whole fish – even the scales: Most of us have heard the phrase “nose to tail” in reference to a chef making food from virtually every part of a pig, cow, or other animal. But did you know you can also do this with fish? Chef Messina explained that everything from the scales to the collar to the belly of a fish can be prepared as food. In this class alone we made ceviche from the belly and tartar from meat scraped off the spine – parts that otherwise could not be used for sashimi.
3. Special tools: If you’re the type of person who loves to play with new tools in the kitchen, consider making sashimi. Chef Messina arrived in class toting seven different knives (each with a unique purpose for breaking down fish), a fish scaler, shark skin wasabi grater, and Japanese chopsticks made with metal (to keep temperature in check when plating sashimi). But if you prefer to keep things simple, fear not. Chef explained that the only tool you really need for sashimi is a clean, sharp chef’s knife.
4. The Origins of Uni: Many food publications are touting uni, the edible part of a sea urchin, as the “foie gras of the sea.” Its rich, creamy flavor and steep price tag are a draw for adventurous eaters around the world. So what exactly is uni? Colloquially it’s referred to as roe (or eggs), but it is, in fact, the sea urchin’s gonads (yep, you read that right). Still, that didn’t stop us from enjoying it immensely in ceviche alongside a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
5. Our (Surprise) Favorite Pairing: Red wine is probably the last thing you’d think to pair with sashimi. And to be honest, that’s the mindset we were in when we began the class. Still, we brought a few bottles of Lot 106 Pinot Noir in case we encountered any die-hard red drinkers. To our very pleasant surprise, the Pinot paired perfectly with the tuna served at the end of the class. It just goes to show you, it’s ok to break the rules every now and then…the results might just be delicious.
We’re sure you’re wondering how you can be involved in a class like this, and other Food & Wine Classes in the BCAE’s program of study. You’re in luck — the BCAE is offering 90+ Cellars customers 25% off tuition (and 30% if you're a Wine Club member). To get your discount, simply click here. You can find us next at the BCAE this coming Monday, 9/22, learning all about the Foods of Rosh Hashanah with Chef Josh Lewin of Bread and Salt.