However you slice it, homemade carpaccio isn’t easy. This simplest of preparations — super-thinly-sliced something, dressed — isn’t simple when you pick up your knife and get to cutting.
So put down the knife and just pick up some tricks.
You’ll read how to partially freeze chunks of beef or fish before slicing them see-through thin, the cold making it easier. No need, really, when you can take a slice merely as thin as you comfortably can get it and pound it thin between two layers of waxed paper or plastic wrap (the best: a large, zippered bag). This works very well for both beef and many sorts of fish.
Safe, pound-worthy implements include a meat mallet, should you have one, the flat of a heavy-bottomed pan or merely the bottom of a thick-walled ale glass.
To slice both vegetables and fruits very thinly, for years I’ve used a Japanese-made mandoline from Benriner. The company makes various slicers, each between $30 and $40. Any of them slices vegetables as thin as you may wish to adjust the mandoline, even close to paper-thin. Among my kitchen gadgets, my Benriner is a favorite, and useful in so many other recipes. (For instance, for slicing several onions for a stew or an onion soup, or for constructing a potato gratin or frying homemade potato chips. A straightforward attachment also allows me to julienne vegetables.)
Finally, Asian markets, especially those that cater to Vietnamese cooks preparing pho, sell super-thin slices of various cuts of raw beef (eye of round, sirloin, flank). There you have it: instant classic Venetian carpaccio, with someone else doing the dangerous and difficult work for you. (I shop H Mart, in either Aurora or Westminster.)
Recipes here include carpaccio for both meat lovers as well as vegans or vegetarians.
The classic Venetian carpaccio came into being in 1950 at the hands (and, in those days I am sure, merely the knife) of Giuseppe Cipriani, the founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. Legend has it that a loyal patron, Countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo, told Cipriani that her doctor recommended she eat more raw meat as a way to boost her red blood count.
Cipriani devised that most elegant of recipes we know today as “carpaccio,” named after a Venetian painter of the late 1400s and early 1500s, Vittore Carpaccio, who favored vibrant red color in many of his paintings.
Cipriani adorned his carpaccio solely with squiggles of an off-white sauce of mayonnaise thinned with a splash of lemon juice, Worcestershire and cream. No arugula, no pine nuts, no slivers of cheese.
Classic Venetian Carpaccio
Makes 1, serves 1-2.
- 1/2 pound beef tenderloin, sirloin or eye of round, sliced (or sliced and pounded) very thin
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Juice of 1/4 lemon, more to taste
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 1-2 teaspoons heavy cream
Season the mayonnaise with the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and 3-4 grinds of white pepper, then thin it with just enough cream so that it is pourable off a spoon but not runny.
Gently lay the slices of the beef onto a plate, slightly overlapping at their edges, covering the plate. Nap the beef with the sauce in any pattern that you like. Serve.
Root Vegetable Carpaccio
- 1 medium purple carrot
- 1 medium orange carrot
- 1 large radish
- 1 small to medium golden beet
- 1 small to medium red beet
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground white or black pepper
- 1 teaspoon walnut oil
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon sunflower seeds
Peel all the vegetables. (Note: do not cook them; leave them raw.) On a mandoline, slice them as thinly as possible, keeping the red beet slices separated from the rest. Slice the carrots at an angle so that the mandoline renders ovals.
In a large bowl in which you can freely toss the vegetables, add the vinegars and olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove 2 teaspoons of the vinaigrette to a second, smaller bowl and in it marinate the sliced red beets, turning the slices so that they are coated with the vinaigrette.
To the large bowl, add the other sliced vegetable and toss them well to coat with the vinaigrette. Marinate the vegetables in both bowls for 1 hour at room temperature.
To serve, arrange the vegetables from the large bowl onto a large serving plate or platter in any way that you like, scattering the red beet slices just before serving. (This will prevent them from staining everything.)
Over a medium flame, heat the walnut oil in a small skillet and toast the seeds for 3-4 minutes, stirring, being watchful not to burn the seeds which easily and quickly can occur. Scatter the toasted seeds over the root vegetable carpaccio and serve.
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