You may think eating raw beef or fish is exotic (or crazy) – but when you have a truly great piece of meat or fish, cooking it would almost be insane (granted your meat or fish must come from very reputable purveyors). Often featured on the menu of fine dining establishments, carpaccio – or very thinly sliced pieces of raw meat, fish, and even fruit – is typically served as an exotic appetizer (eating raw meat is not the norm!) and is one of the most delicate of preparations that allows the distinctive flavors of meat or fish to truly come out. Here’s your guide for enjoying carpaccio as an exotic appetizer at home.
What is carpaccio?
There are two theories behind carpaccio, but they both begin with beef. The first, and more widely-known speculation is that carpaccio was created at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy in 1950 when it was served to the countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo whose doctor prescribed that she only eat raw meat. At her request, Giuseppe Cipriani sliced pieces of raw beef very thinly and dressed them with creamy olive oil vinaigrette. The dish was named after the 15th century painter Vittore Carpaccio because the dish reminded Cipriani of his paintings.
A second story is born at Savini Restaurant in Milan with a woman who was again told only to eat raw meat (maybe it was the same lady!). The waiter suggested she call the raw meat carpaccio because it sounded more elegant then ordering raw meat. A Carpaccio painting was hanging in the restaurant at the time.
No matter what the story, a delicious dish was born, but after the Italians created carpaccio, it was the French who perfected it. The French created duck carpaccio, vegetable carpaccio, and salmon and tuna carpaccios. Today, chefs are experimenting with all types of carpaccio, but a favorite is still beef.
Tips for preparing carpaccio
When preparing carpaccio, it is paramount to follow certain rules because consuming raw meat is not always safe. Here are some safety – and preparation – tips.
Use the freshest ingredients
You must use the absolute freshest meat or fish available – and from the most reputed sources.
Find a busy butcher
Make sure to purchase your meat from a reliable source. Ideally, you want to get it from a reputable butcher or fishmonger that you know moves a lot of product. In most cases, using grocery store meat is not recommended because you can’t be sure how long it’s been in the case. (I cannot stress this point enough-only purchase carpaccio meat from a reputable source.)
Have a super sharp knife
To expertly slice carpaccio, you want to use an extremely sharp large knife. You don’t want to saw through the meat – you need to create one long thin cut that is as thin as possible. An electric knife can also be used but you have less control over the thickness.
To freeze or not to freeze
Some people find that freezing the meat works well to help slice the meat thinly. However, purists find that once the meat defrosts, it can become mushy and the taste changes.
Searing is acceptable
If eating totally raw meat freaks you out then you can quickly sear the outside on the stovetop leaving the center raw. Be warned: The taste will not be as pure and delicate.
Other then the meat, you want to use just a few quality ingredients. Extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground pepper will really enhance the flavor of the meat. Because carpaccio is traditionally uncooked, you will be able to taste every ingredient – which is why the best and freshest ingredients are musts.