The Dish: Boston's Tim Cushman

A native of Boston, Tim Cushman's first training wasn't in food, but in jazz and classical guitar at the city's renowned Berklee College of Music. But while pursuing his musical dreams, he worked in restaurants and discovered a whole new passion. He spent the next three decades cooking around the world, including Japan, and it's there that he found his culinary heart.

His O Ya in Boston has been recognized as one of the top sushi restaurants in the nation, earning him a James Beard Award as Best Chef in the Northeast. 

Since then he's opened the Hojoko Japanese Tavern in Boston, and a branch of O Ya and the California cuisine-inspired Covina in New York. 

Here are some of Cushman's signature recipes: 

Salmon tataki hand rolls

Ingredients

1 each nori squares 4" x 4" 

2 tbs. sushi rice 

¼ tsp  wasabi 

1 each salmon, sliced into 3" x ½" 

2 tbsp ponzu 

2 each plum tomato, cut in to ½ moon slices, ¼" thick 

½ tsp smoked salt 

2 tsp onion aioli 

2 tsp green onions, sliced thin, rinsed and dried 

1 tsp leek, only the white part, sliced very thin, rinsed and dried 

2 tsp kaiware sprouts 

Directions

1. Marinate the salmon slice in the ponzu for 30 seconds. remove the salmon, place on a flameproof dish and torch using a blowtorch on only one side for 30 seconds.

2. Season the plum tomato slices with smoked salt. torch, using blowtorch, on one side only for 30 seconds.

3. Make hand roll: Place the nori square on a flat surface, and place sushi rice down the front-center of the nori piece. smear the wasabi evenly down the rice. place torched salmon on top, followed by the onion aioli.

4. Add torched tomato, green onion, leek and kaiware. Roll the hand roll into a cigar shape. Serve immediately. 

Spicy honey pizza 

Ingredients

1 10 oz ball of pizza dough 

¼ cup provolone bechamel sauce (see recipe below) 

¼ cup fresh mozzarella, torn into 1/2" thick pieces 

¼ cup shredded mozzarella 

Fresh ground black pepper

Spicy honey

10 pieces sopressatta 

Directions

1. Stretch dough ball to 9-12 inch round shape on a floured surface. Spread provolone bechamel sauce evenly over the dough using a ladle or spoon, leaving 1" around the edge for a crust. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese evenly over the pizza, leaving 1" around the edge for a crust. Add the sopressatta, evenly, all over the pizza.  

2. Place pizza stone/pizza steel/sheet tray into the oven, and preheat oven to the highest temperature, letting warm up for at least an hour before cooking. Transfer pizza to the pizza stone/steel/sheet tray. allow to bake roughly eight min, or until the bottom is golden brown. remove pizza from oven, still on the stone/steel/tray, and set oven to broil, also at the highest temperature.  

3. Place torn pieces of mozzarella on the pizza, leaving some space between pieces. Transfer the stone/steel/tray back in the oven, ideally on a rack located directly under the broiler. broil for 1.5 min, or until the top of the pizza is browned. 

4. Remove pizza from the oven, sliding onto a cutting surface. garnish the pizza with the spicy honey and fresh ground black pepper, to taste. both the honey and the pepper should lightly coat the entire pizza, so that every bite is sweet and spicy.

Provolone bechamel ingredients

1.5 cups  whole milk

¼ cup, diced onion

1/8 tsp red chili flake

1 tsp black peppercorns

1/2 bay leaf

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

1/4 cups provolone picante, grated

1 tsp kosher salt

Directions

1. Put the milk in a sauce pot with the onion, chili flake, peppercorns and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and then steep for 30 minutes. strain milk through a chinois into a clean container, discard solids and set aside.  

2. Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium low heat. add the flour, stirring constantly, until a thick paste forms. Cook the roux until it smells toasted and becomes golden brown, bring steeped milk back to a simmer and then add the roux, whisking to dissolve completely. 

3. Cook the milk and the roux at a low simmer, whisking constantly for 5 minutes until thickened. Add the grated provolone to the thickened milk, and remove from heat. whisk until the cheese is completely melted into the milk.  

4. Transfer mixture to clean container, and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the mixture, to prevent a "skin" from forming. Let cool completely in the refrigerator before using. 

Hojoko cheeseburger 

Ingredients

1 hamburger, 5oz

1 sesame seed bun

2 tsp kosher salt

3 tsp special sauce, (see recipe)

1 slice yellow american cheese, sliced

2 tbl beef tallow (rendered beef fat)

1 tbl red onions, sliced thin

5 slices of pickle, sliced into ½" coins

2 oz ketchup

½ tsp fine sea salt

8 oz french fries

Directions

1. Season portioned burger all over with kosher salt. Preheat cast iron pan or grill over high heat, until very hot. Using a burger press, smash burger onto surface. Let burger sear, on one side only, undisturbed, for two min. Flip burger. you should have a deep brown crust that developed on the bottom side. if not, flip back over and continue cooking on the first side.  

2. Let burger cook 30 seconds on the second side, then add the slice of cheese. cover with dome until cheese melts. if you want the burger medium-medium well, don't cover the burger, just let the cheese melt naturally, about 1.5 min. 

3. While cheese is melting, toast the burger buns. Add the beef tallow to a separate pan, melting, then add the buns and toast to golden brown. Flip the bottom bun over, toasting both sides. If you are grilling, slather the buns in the tallow as if it were butter and grill to golden. 

4. While cheese is melting, toast the burger buns. Add the beef tallow to a separate pan, melting, then add the buns and toast to golden brown. Flip the bottom bun over, toasting both sides. if you are grilling, slather the buns in the tallow as if it were butter and grill to golden.