The end is near. Like any good survivalist, I’m stocking up. My freezer is loaded with shrimp, edamame and ramen noodles. A couple of cases of Champagne are tucked under the basement stairs. Tubs of miso and boxes of tofu are stacked in the refrigerator. My oversized bottles of rice vinegar and soy sauce have been topped up.
I’ll miss a lot of things when Tony hands over the keys to his Akron sushi bar, Sushi Katsu, and retires Feb. 29 – wine and fish at wholesale prices, access to 20-pound tubs of toasted sesame seeds…. but mostly I’ll miss Tony’s extraordinary sushi. It’s not easy to make at home, he says. He would have to drive to Columbus for the sushi-quality seafood, spend an hour cooking, fanning and seasoning the rice, make ponzu and eel sauces, etc. etc.
“It would be a hassle,” he admitted.
Luckily, we’ll still be able to dine at Sushi Katsu. The new owners recognize Tony’s skill and asked him to train their sushi chefs before he leaves. He has spent the last three weeks teaching, and will probably remain awhile after the restaurant changes hands, “until I’m comfy they can do it,” he says.
Still, I no longer will be able to send Tony to work with empty containers to fill and bring home. For ponzu and eel sauces, at least, that will be no problem. I can easily make my own.
Ponzu, one of the simplest Japanese sauces, is basically citrus-spiked soy sauce. Tony makes his with lemon juice, rice vinegar and soy sauce.
Eel sauce is more complicated, and each sushi bar in Japan has a secret recipe. At its simplest, it is a mixture of soy sauce, sugar and water simmered until thickened. Tony also adds sake and lemon juice. When he made sushi in Japan, he started the eel sauce by boiling sea eels in water with soy sauce and sugar. He skips that step here.
Tony won’t divulge the proportions of either sauce because the recipes have been passed on to the new owners, but he gave me enough information to make reasonable copies. The sauces can be used on a variety of things besides sushi. A splash of ponzu, a thin sauce, is delicious on grilled seafood as a finishing touch. Eel sauce (tsume) is similar to teriyaki sauce, and can be brushed on fish, pork and chicken before cooking or drizzled over the finished seafood and meat.
• 1/4 cup soy sauce
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
• 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
• Dash of cayenne
Combine all ingredients and mix well. May be stored indefinitely in the refrigerator.
• 2 cups water
• 1 cup soy sauce
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 tbsp. sake
• 1 tbsp. lemon juice
Combine ingredients in a narrow, deep saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer without stirring until reduced by half. Let stand overnight. Transfer to plastic squeeze bottles and store in refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
LACQURED SALMON WITH RICE STICKS
• 1 oz. (about) thin rice sticks
• Vegetable oil
• 2 tbsp. olive oil
• 4 salmon fillets, each about 2 inches wide
• 4 tbsp. (about) eel sauce
• 4 green onions, green part only, sliced
With scissors, snip off four pieces of rice sticks, each about half the size of your hand. Gently tease apart the strands into a fan shape.
Heat about a half-inch of oil in a wide skillet until very hot. Drop in one mass of rice sticks and when the noodles puff, turn with a spatula. When the noodles puff again, remove and drain on paper towels. Noodles should not brown. Continue with remaining rice sticks.
Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan. Brush the salmon, pink sides only, with some of the eel sauce. Place skillet over medium-high heat.
Arrange salmon skin side down in hot skillet. Cover and cook for 7 to 10 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Turning is not necessary. With a spatula, remove fillets from grill, leaving skin behind.
Place a mass of noodles on one side of each of four dinner plates. Rest salmon fillets against the noodles. Drizzle with more eel sauce and sprinkle with chopped green onions. Serves four.
Three words: Chicken fried bacon. It actually exists. My friend, Charlotte Observer food editor Kathleen Purvis, found it at Acre restaurant in Auburn, Ala., recently. Strips of bacon (no mention whether crisp or raw) are dipped in batter and deep fried.
Talk about piling sin on sin.
Kathi said with all the breading and seasonings, she couldn’t really taste the bacon. No matter. It still contains the full complement of calories even without the gravy.
From Marty Kaltenbach:
You frequently reference Malley’s chocolates. I’ll tell you that Temo’s chocolate is better. Especially any of the dark bark. Larry and Elaine and the crew still make all the chocolate in-house. Caramel, too. The bark is thick and has the right percentage of cocoa — not so dark as to be bitter.
They take cash or check only, and they are closed in summer to protect their product and reputation. Stop in and visit.
Dear Marty: Thank you for giving me a chance to love on Temo’s. I adore Temo’s chocolate. I have stopped in to visit (and buy) many times. I have traipsed to the basement to watch the chocolatier at work. At Easter and Christmas, I can buy it at my local Acme. I took gobs of it to Japan as gifts. Tony bought me a tiny box of Valentine’s chocolates at Malley’s because he passes the store daily and Malley’s sells sugar-free. I am not one to look a gift box of chocolates in the mouth.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure, Temo’s shop is at 495 W. Exchange St. in Akron, phone 330-376-7229.
From Dorothy Tucker:
Please tell Dale that pork shanks also make a very good osso buco. I have been using them for the last 15 years — great, just great.
Dear Dorothy: Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll try that, too.