Shavuot with friends enjoying a Hamachi Sushi dinner and some Four Gate Wines
On this past Shavuot my wife and I prepared a sushi dinner for a crowd of 12. The work was crazy long because we bought super fresh Hamachi (yellow tail). The name yellow tail comes from the fish’s yellow tail, as can be seen on Wikipedia. The fish comes in different sizes, but we bought a 2+ kilo fish – which is about 4.3 pounds. I also bought some Sushi grade salmon to pair with the Hamachi. There is a very incorrect and unfortunate misconception that Hamachi is a tuna – it is NOT! Hamachi is actually an Amber Jack of the Jack family. Now the fish has two parts the back and the belly. The back is quite flavorful but not so rich in fatty oils. The belly on the other hand, is packed and dripping with oils, and it beyond compare.
Shavuot is famous for being the day when the Jews received the Torah from God. It is also famous for cheesecake and dairy foods. I am not a huge dairy food fan, but I do love cheesecake. So to compromise with my friends we make sushi and eat cheesecake! We have done the sushi night before, and I always remember why we do not do it more often, because it is a REAL PAIN to make it for 12 people. I love my friends, but my wife and I both spent a good 4 hours each preparing the fish. We are both experienced sushi hands, but breaking down that much fish and vegetable, cooking the rice, rolling the rolls, and preparing the accompaniments, is a real chore. Thank goodness that the gang shred both the price and work or gathering all the food stuff for this meal.
It starts with buying the freshest Hamachi you can find. We bought ours from the Japanese store, next to my work called Nijiya. I loved the store and the fresh fish. The folks were very nice and put up with me. I wanted to buy a 4+ pound Hamachi, NOT cut up or prepared, and they gladly let me do it, which was very nice. I broke the fish down at home, but wow the quality was OFF the charts! Well worth looking for them when you cannot make it to Mitsuwa in West San Jose.
Once the fish was skinned, boned, and separated, it was on to breaking down the vegetables (English Cucumber and avocado) into thin strips. Then cut up the Hamachi back into strips as well. At this point we are ready to roll the rolls. The rolling is quite simple, but doing 27 or so of them , takes some time.
I must say that pre-rolling was by far the best idea we have had when preparing sushi rolls or Sashimi for so many guests. Originally, we rolled and cut the rolls in front of our guests at the table (like we do for ourselves), but that is slow and painful, though cool. So the pre-rolling is a no brainer. However, we learned a new fact, cutting up sushi rolls is not so hard and many of the gang were happy to chip in and do the final slicing, so that left me sometime to actually taste the stuff. If there is one downside to all this work, is the stupid feeling that you are doing all this work, cutting up some 15 rolls, and getting to taste none of it, because the platter come back empty. Worse, is that by the time you cut up the next round of rolls, most of the folks have eaten, and you do not get a chance to enjoy the sushi with your friends. To fix this problem, we now have the simple plan or giving everyone (or whomever wants to help) 5 or so rolls, and have all the rolls cut up in no time, so that we can all enjoy the sushi together.
Once the sushi rolls are taken care of, we are on to the Sashimi. My platter did not look as nice as the ones on Wikipedia, but hey, it tasted darn good. Sashimi is all about fresh fish and good fish. Sashimi is raw fish cut into byte size pieces. However, the joy of Yellow Tail is the fatty belly. Once you eat that Sashimi style, you are not going back to Tuna any time soon. The oily goodness of the fresh Hamachi was off the charts and all the Sashimi disappeared in almost no time.
There was green salad, pickled ginger, and the sushi/sashimi. To pair with the fish, Benyo brought over some older Pinot and a vertical of the small bottles from the 12 barrels he had of his Four Gates 2000 Chardonnay vintage. The older Pinots were really nice, but they were already past their time, except for the recent N.V. which is awesome. The 2000 Chardonnay(s), were nice, but I really loved the super oaked version and the un-oaked version. It gave me a chance to taste the difference between oak and unoaked wines – of almost the exact same grapes – really cool and fun.
Overall an awesome event, sorry for no wine notes, but the wines were not really for note taking, but rather for entertainment value.