Potluck DIY Sushi Party!

A few times over the past 8 years, we’ve hosted a – what we EVER so classily refer to as – “All You Can Stuff Sushi Potluck Party”. Twice, it’s been as my husband’s birthday party, and each time, I think to myself that I should blog this.

My husband’s birthday was this past week, which was a reminder that I was planning to blog his sushi party a YEAR ago. Whoops. At least I kept the information all this time … even if we once again forgot to take pictures as it was all happening. Again… whoops.

Anyway, apparently sushi rolling parties are actually becoming a THING now… though it was a new, unique idea back when we started. Boo, missed opportunity to be trend setters!

This party is a lot of fun to do, assuming you’re good with logistics. There’s a lot to juggle, but when it all comes together, it’s super rewarding.

First Off: Decide the Basics

We’ve now done this party a few different ways, and which way you plan to do it depends a lot on your friends, your finances, etc. Personally, I prefer one of the potluck methods … it just feels more social. Only you know your friends and what would work best for you, though!

1 – Guests Bring Items:

For this method, I do up a wish list of items, and divide it out among the people attending. I try to keep it even, that people are all bringing about the same value of items (Don’t stick one friend with bringing expensive fish, and ask for a single cucumber from another!). One thing to keep in mind when dividing out the list is who you are asking to bring what. Some people, I trust to know what a good avocado looks like, others… not so much! Another consideration is “Who lives near one of the few places to sell trustworthy sashimi grade fish?”.

2 – Guests Bring Items OR Contribute Money:

If you have a lot of friends that you may not trust so much to pick up certain items, this can be a good option. Some people get excited about showing up with a beautiful piece of salmon, for instance… while others would much rather just Paypal you a few bucks and have you do it.

3 – Guests Chip in Money:

The most recent time we hosted a sushi potluck party, we asked everyone which way they’d like to do this, and everyone decided that they’d like to just chip in. It was just before a busy con season, so it just ended up more efficient to have me do the shopping for it. Fair enough – everyone sent $10 per person via Paypal ahead of time.

4 – Not Potluck

You can, of course, always just straight up host the dinner, rather than do it as a potluck.

Next: Finalize a Guest List

Due to the nature of the party, it’s really important to have a solid guest count before you start shopping and prep work. In Minnesota, that can be pretty difficult with the popularity of the “Minnesota Decline” – putting a “Maybe” instead of a “no” when a guest knows they won’t be able to make it.

It’s important to give a deadline for RSVP, and request a solid Yes or No – Maybes should be counted as no. A lot of cost and planning goes into this, and you don’t want to be stuck doing extra work and/or extra purchasing if you don’t have to. Also, sushi leftovers do not exactly keep well!

Plan The Menu

No matter which way you’re doing the potluck, it’s best to wait until you have your guest list before actually planning your menu. The more people you have, the more selections you can add.

Additionally, consider your guests. Are some not sushi fans? You can add tempura vegetables, gyoza, chicken satay, etc as options. Are some vegetarians? Be sure to have extra veg options for filling the sushi. Anyone gluten-free? Be sure to have a bottle of GF soy sauce on hand.

As an example, our most recent Sushi Party menu was:

Appetizers:

Edamame
Gyoza
Chicken Satay

Sauces & Garnishes

Mango Sauce
Dynamite Sauce
Eel Sauce
Soy Sauce
Ponzu Sauce
Sesame Seeds
Black Sesame Seeds
Wasabi
Pickled Ginger

Beverage

Green Iced Tea with Lychee and Mandarin Orange

Dessert

Matcha Pavlova with Matcha Whipped Cream,
Honeydew, Lychee, and Mandarin Orange

Sushi Fixings

Nori
5 colours of Soy wrappers
Sushi Rice

Tuna
Salmon
Hamachi (Yellowtail)
Roasted Eel
Ebi (Shrimp)
“Crab” sticks

Spicy Salmon
Spicy “Crab”
Spicy Tuna

Tobiko
Masago

Cucumber
Avocado
Green Onions
Zucchini
Jalapeno
Sweet Potato
Mango

Recipe Links

Chicken Satay
Gyoza
Matcha Pavlova
Spicy Tuna Filling(Can be used with Salmon, etc)
Sushi Rice
Sushi Sauces – Dynamite, Eel, and Mango

Do Your Shopping List

Once you have your menu designed, go through and see what needs to be purchased as-is (the vegetables, which sauces, etc), and which you will be making at home.

Do up a list for the stand alone items, as well as the ingredients needed to make the other items. Also, make a list of non-food items you’ll need – party cups, paper plates, LOTS of chopsticks, little sauce cups for wasabi/soy sauce, napkins, etc.

Get a few sushi knives. They don’t have to be expensive – I bought a few of this one, on Amazon. Love it! (Cosplayers: It is GREAT for carving foam!)

You’re more than likely going to need to go to more than one place, so I like to divide the list out by the stores I’m going to. IN this case, it was one normal grocery store, one Asian specialty store, and a fish monger.

If you are having some or all of your guests bring items, let them know what they’re bringing about a week ahead of time.

Plan Your Time Line For Food Prep

Take a good look at your menu, and list out what needs to be done, and when. It’s best to do as much as you can ahead of time, but you also have to take into account that some items need certain timing. For instance, don’t buy your fish more than a day ahead of time, avocados will brown if you cut them up too early.

As an example, here is the time line for our most recent party (which started at lunch time):

Me Porter
2 Days Before Buy everything except fish
Make gyoza, freeze
The Day Before Make sushi sauces
Make gyoza sauce
Make satay dipping sauce
Marinate chicken satays
Buy fish
Bake the Pavlova
Tidy front and back yard
Hose down the outside tables
Morning of the Party Make sushi rice (How many batches?)
Cut green onions, jalapenos, cucumber, mango, zucchini
Slice fish, prepare “spicy” fillings, chill
Peel and slice sweet potato, cook, chill.
Strain off cans of Mandarin Oranges and Lychee, use strained syrup for making iced tea.
Put the table cloths out
Dishes
Wipe off countertops in kitchen
Set out: Wasabi, soy sauce, plates, chopsticks, cups, pickled ginger, nori
As People Are Arriving Cook gyozas
Steam edamame
Heat satay sauce
Prepare sushi wrappers
Cut avocado
Set out remaining sushi items
Grill Satays
During Party Make whipped cream
Cut up fruit, assemble pavlova
Enjoy yourself, birthday boy 🙂

Set Up

Set up will depend a lot on your home layout, and how many people are going to be making sushi with you.

For us, we set up two 8′ long banquet tables, with a couple chairs at each. Each place gets a sushi rolling station – sheets of parchment paper for rolling, nori, soy paper. In between each two seats gets a big bowl of sushi rice, with a measuring cup or scoop. Along the back of the table is where the ingredients get set up. Due to the number of ingredients used, it’s a cooperative effort – lots of passing involved! Each table also gets a couple little bowls of water, a cutting board, and a couple sushi knives.

How the ingredients are presented depends on the ingredient. Stable ingredients are out on plates. Raw fish is on plates, covered in plastic while not in use, resting on a big bowl of ice. Only a small amount of fish is out at any given time, and the plates are exchanged for fresh ones with new fish as they run out. Avocado is also served up a little at a time, to prevent browning.

In addition to the rolling tables, a counter in the kitchen is designated as the garnishing station. There, the sauces (dynamite sauce is in an ice bowl), wasabi, sesame seeds, etc are laid out, as well as plates, chop sticks, etc. Once done rolling and slicing their sushi, guests go to the kitchen to finish their sushi off. Plate in hand, they usually head out to the patio to mingle and eat, as the next round of guests sit down to roll their sushi.

Throughout the party, we refresh ingredient plates, etc, as guests roll more sushi as they’re ready. Eventually everyone gives up as the sushi coma sets in!

Sushi Rolling

I like to have pieces of parchment paper (you can use wax paper, if you prefer) on hand for rolling, rather than bamboo sheets. Logistically, it’s great for clean up, and I also find it easier for sushi beginners to work with.

A VERY early post (ie: excuse the poor photography!) on this blog – Spicy Tuna Maki – shows more or less how I roll sushi. We’ve since taken to having the rice go slightly over the far long edge of the nori, to form a bit of a lip to overlap the starting edge of the roll, if that makes sense.

How your guests roll their sushi will depend on their own experience/preference, the type of roll they’re making (rice in, or rice out), and the amount of ingredients they’re trying to cram in there. You will likely have some epic failures, so forks can come in handy!

It’s also a good idea to have at least one person on hand who knows what they’re doing, who can demonstrate and/or assist beginners.

Enjoy!

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Sushi Cake – Happy Birthday to ME!

Between all of the MasterChef stuff and racing to get our Weeping Angel costumes ready for BritCon this weekend, life’s been kind of nuts. Well, not kind of… it’s been really insane.

When our bodies revolted on Sunday morning and prompted us to forgo Sunday at BritCon in favor of recovery time, the sudden clearing of 1 day’s schedule allowed us a few minutes to think… and I realized that it’s my birthday this week. WHAT? End of May already?! How did that happen?

My birthdays are usually kind of weird around here. I never really feel like doing anything social for them, and they’re so soon after my husband’s birthday. As he didn’t get birthday parties before we met, I just feel it makes more sense to pull out all the stops for him, and coast on mine.

This year, though… I had an idea. I wanted a SUSHI CAKE. Porter was so happy that I actually had an idea/plan, he had NO problem with hopping in the car to go pick up the stuff to make it. It came together quickly and easily, was fun and TASTY.

Well, my birthday may not be til Thursday – the day I planned to post this – but I made the mistake of posting some pics to Facebook, and I’ve been nagged to post the recipe NOW. So… here we go!

This is more of a general guide / “how to”, than an actual recipe. You can tweak this to suit your tastes, how many people you’ll be serving, what kind of equipment you have on hand, and what ingredients are available in your area. I decided to base this cake on one of my favorite maki rolls, Tuna, Avocado, and Mango Maki – partially because tuna is the easiest fish to find as “sashimi grade”, locally. Use whatever makes you happy!

A note on the rice:

We made this, gave it a good press, and served it immediately. If you are serving it immediately, use Sushi-seasoned rice for best flavor. HOWEVER if you plan to chill the cake before serving, just use regular “sushi” type rice, without the seasoning. Sushi-seasoned rice gets hard when chilled, not so appetizing.

Sushi Cake

Prepared sushi type rice, either seasoned (to be served immediately) or unseasoned (if cake will be chilled)
Nori
Sashimi grade fish of choice
Mayo & Sriracha, if you want to make Spicy filling
Masago and/or tobiko of choice, optional
Vegetables and/or fruit of choice (We used avocados, cucumbers, and mango)
Sesame seeds
Wasabi – ideally in powdered form
Rice Vinegar, optional

– First, prepare your ingredients. We chopped (and promptly refrigerated!) the tuna, and thinly sliced the cucumbers and mango. We chopped the avocado and tossed it with a bit of rice vinegar to prevent oxidization.

– Decide what you’ll be using as your cake mold, and line it well with plastic wrap. Be sure to leave the ends of each piece of plastic hanging over the edges. Not only will you need to fold these over the cake when pressing it, they will help you unmold the cake!

(For reference, we used a 4″ springform cheesecake pan, and it made probably 3 servings worth of sushi.)

– Have a bit of a design in mind before you start placing your items. For our part, we wanted the cucumbers to look like “swags” on a birthday cake. Because this would be an outermost part of the design, we placed them first, in a ring around the bottom of the pan (which becomes the top when the cake is inverted!). You could also place a design of vegetables, fruit, sesame seeds, or fish on the bottom of the pan.. creating a build-in design when the cake is inverted. You know, like a sushi upside down cake!

Once the cucumber border was in place, we pressed a layer of plain white sushi rice into the bottom of the pan, to be a clear, perfect cake “top”. This also helped hold the cucumbers in place.

To make the “sprinkled” side of the cake, I mixed a generous amount of masago in with some white sushi rice, and firmly pressed it evenly along the side of the pan.

Once the sides were pressed in, we started layering the ingredients. The first layer was a round I cut from a nori sheet, followed by mango slices.

At this point, we noticed that Turbo had run off with a scrap of nori, so we had to watch, photograph, and generally pay attention to her. NO idea why she became so obsessed with seaweed! She’s kind of a weird cat…

Anyway, we continued layering ingredients until the pan was almost full, pressing down firmly and evenly whenever we could. We ended with a final layer of rice, to make it easier to handle.

Once the pan is full, fold the ends of the plastic wrap in and over the cake, and press down FIRMLY and evenly to compact the cake. We happened to have a small plate that fit perfectly inside the springform pan, so we used that to press it all down.

If you’re going to chill it, chill it now.

To serve, peel back all of the plastic wrap and carefully invert the cake onto a serving plate.

Once the cake is inverted, feel free to decorate it further. We decided to mix up some wasabi to pipe “Happy Birthday” on top, and a little bead border along the bottom edge. I just used a regular pastry bag… and if we’d had more wasabi powder on hand, I would have made more wasabi, thicker, and piped a rose from it! (If you do this, freeze the rose for a few minutes after piping to make it easier to transfer to the cake)

In addition to wasabi “frosting”, there are so many ways you can decorate a sushi cake:

Sprinkles: Use sesame seeds (plain, toasted, and or black!), tobiko or masago (in various colors/flavours!), or nori as “sprinkles”. Nori can be cut into really thing slices, and then chopped to make rectangular sprinkles.

More vegetables and fruit: Slices of veggies can be cut up to look like flowers, etc (Like cucumbers or thinly sliced carrots!)

Pickled Ginger: Cut into shapes, or drape to form “roses”. Pickled ginger roses with piped wasabi leaves would be super cute!

Sashimi can also be thinly sliced and formed into roses.

Nori shapes: Nori is easily cut into shapes.. hearts, flowers, geometric shapes… have some fun with it! To adhere designs to the cake, damped one side of the nori shape slightly with water, and just stick it to the cake.

To serve, slice with a VERY clean, very sharp knife – I rinse with cold water between each slice. Serve with soy sauce, and eat with a fork and knife.

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Birthday Cake Martini

I have a really dirty, shameful secret, and I guess I have to share it, in order to post this recipe.

Augh!

You guys know I’m the Evil Cake Overlord, and purveyor of all that is awesome about cake. You know that I swear by Swiss Meringue Buttercream, which is – quite simply – the most fabulous frosting that ever existed. I have never steered anyone wrong when it comes to matters of cake.

Here’s the thing: That “frosting” you buy in a can? Like… the “cream cheese” stuff? The stuff I would never personally put on a cake… ever?

I love it.

I have the most ridiculous sweet tooth ever, one that knows NO shame. While I would never use canned frosting on cake, it has other great uses… like making store bought gluten free cookies palatable. Melting some and drizzling it over ice cream is probably my guiltiest of pleasures. (Hear that? That’s the sound of my “cred” dying… ack! ).

With the new cake vodkas on the market, there’s another great use for it – I like to keep some on hand, for rimming martini glasses!

… which brings me to today’s recipe: Birthday Cake Martinis!

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Star Wars Groom Cakes

This trio of awesome Star Wars cakes courtesy of Jen at Sweet Element Cakes, who is also on Twitter at @SweetElement

Interesting note: The molecule Jen uses in her logo is Theobromine, which she chose due to the amount of chocolate she uses! She considers herself a “moderate” geek (Yeah, right…”moderate” – with a logo like that!), but is surrounded by geeks, and married one!

AT-AT Groom’s Cake
At=At Groom Cake
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The Predator, with his cake!

Remember that time I made a Klingon Bird of Prey cake, and got photos of the fully-costumed Klingons cutting it with a Batleth weapon? I have similarly cool/geeky cake cutting photos today!

I have a friend, Todd, who is well known locally as “The Predator”. No, not for anything gross, but for his costuming prowess. He routinely dresses up as The Predator for Conventions and special events, and looks great!

In fact, I was gonna bring him as my date to an event, in costume. Received an event invite from a local business person who’d badmouthed me and my business, and it got back to me. Yes, the one who said I was throwing it all “down the toilet” by cavorting with Klingons. Whatever. She’d made the mistake of referring to “creative fashion appreciated” on the invite for her chi-chi “NYC style” event, so I figured “The Predator” woulda been fun. In the end, A.) I figured she was probably baiting me, and B.) I’m not fond of spending much time with wannabes and pretentious fake people, so I didn’t go. I can get by on the mental images of what coulda been, though!

Yes, it could have been delicious, but I digress. Todd hosted a room party at a local horror movie convention this weekend, so we planned to do a small cake for the event. I think I’ll let the photos do the talking for me 🙂 (more…)

Showing off the “Mad Skillz” a bit… Ganesh Cake!

With all of the time spent working on my new book “The Spirited Baker”, and now working up to the release of it… well, there hasn’t been a lot of cake being created here… Well, now I have one to share!

This cake was made for one of my geeky tweeps. Her husband and her have had a running joke about a “Ganache Ganesh” for years. (Ganache being the thick chocolate filling that truffles are made from). She jumped at the chance to make their in-joke a reality, and planned to present him with a birthday cake of epic proportions. I am pleased to present “The Ganache Ganesh”!

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Happy Birthday Melissa!

As you may know, I’ve been on a writing sabbatical for the past while. It’s been interesting to spend SO much time *out* of my commercial kitchen – either in my home office, banging out my upcoming cookbook… or in my own, home kitchen, working on recipes for the book.

The time hasn’t been completely cake-less.. the Hannibal cake broke up the writing mojo for a bit… and then a friend celebrated a birthday. Such a crazy, unique individual, couldn’t resist crafting something that suited her. I’ll post more write up later, but a bit of background: Melissa – AKA “Queen of the Lizard People” – is an avid photographer. Recently, she’s taken on a few long term projects, photographing fortune cookie papers, and conversation hearts (separately!)

The cake was entirely edible – The camera & lizard bodies were carved from fresh lemon cake (which was brushed with a fresh lemon syrup, and filled with our tangy fresh lemon swiss meringue buttercream! – she wanted “in-your-face” lemon flavor!), with the camera lens and lizard head sculpted from Rice Krispie Treat. The black fondant was chocolate, the orange fondant was lemon flavored. Yum! Additionally, the “conversation hearts” were made from fondant, and the crown / fortunes were made from gum paste.

Check out the photos!

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The things you can make with cake..

This cake was too cool NOT to have a blog post dedicated to it!

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The Week of the Geek! (cake, that is)


I confess. I’m a nerd. I married a nerdy geek, and most of my friends are some combination of the two 🙂
Lately, we’ve had a run of orders for geeky / nerdy cakes, and I LOVE it! There’s a wedding cake in December that I’m very much looking forward to doing (Super Mario!), and a World of Warcraft groom’s cake next summer that is going to be *awesome*. This weekend was the “Week of the Geek”, with not one, but THREE nerd/geek cakes! (more…)

First Celebrity Cake!

Shawn Bakken of Beauty and the Geek

A carved birthday cake for a reality tv star! Shawn Bakken (of Beauty & the Geek fame) is a soccer playing Scout leader.