I first tasted beef carpaccio in 1986 at Harry’s Bar in Venice. It was my first trip to Italy, and we were told that anyone who went to Venice had to visit Harry’s Bar for a Bellini and a plate of carpaccio. Before I moved to Italy in 1987, I ate my beef medium well done, so for me to try raw beef was a real adventure. The plate looked appetizing topped with a generous drizzle of special sauce, but I just wasn’t sure I could eat an entire plate of raw beef. It turned out to be love at first bite—beef carpaccio has become one of my favorite foods since that very memorable experience at Harry’s Bar so long ago.
Carpaccio is defined as raw meat or fish (commonly tuna, salmon, and swordfish), thinly sliced or pounded thin and served as an appetizer or lunch option. Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice, created the first beef carpaccio for the countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo in 1950 when he found out she couldn’t eat cooked meat. The name was inspired by the paintings of Vittore Carpaccio, a famous Venetian painter whose paintings were often in tones of red and white which resembled the carpaccio. This dish has now become famous worldwide.
Variation of carpaccio topped with shaved raw artichokes, shaved pecorino cheese, and capers.
The original Harry’s Bar carpaccio is still made by covering a plate with paper-thin slices of raw beef and then garnishing with a drizzle of a secret dressing. Though the carpaccio served at Harry’s Bar is extremely simple, the dish is now created in a variety of ways outside of Venice. Some of my favorite ways to prepare carpaccio at home are topped with arugula, thinly sliced raw artichokes or mushrooms, or a combination of thinly sliced fennel and ripe cherry tomatoes. Often the plate of carpaccio is finished with shavings of parmesan cheese, and sometimes capers or even pine nuts garnish the plate.
I prefer to use beef tenderloin for my carpaccio, and when eating raw beef it’s best to ensure it’s very fresh. If you have any health concerns, you can sear the tenderloin well on all sides before slicing it. If you decide to sear it, I’d recommend freezing the tenderloin for two hours first to ensure the center remains rare. Since this beef isn’t cooked, it shouldn’t be prepared for pregnant women, babies, young children, the elderly, or anyone whose health is compromised.
In order to achieve paper-thin slices of beef, I find freezing it wrapped in plastic wrap for an hour works really well. Even after I slice it as thinly as possible with my sharpest knife, I still like to use a flat-ended meat mallet to pound it paper-thin after covering both sides of each slice in plastic wrap. If you wanted to make things even easier, buy your beef from a good butcher and ask him to slice it thinly for you.
I prefer to prepare beef carpaccio as a casual lunch entrée at home, but you can also serve it as an appetizer. It’s a fabulous appetizer to serve when entertaining guests—it looks and tastes great and it’s easy to prepare. You can slice the carpaccio a couple of hours ahead, but wrap it well in plastic wrap and then store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it.
For this dish it is best to use baby or wild arugula, but if this is not available, you can use a mixed baby salad greens. You can either drizzle your carpaccio dish with a lightly flavored mustard sauce as I have in my recipe, or choose to use a simple lemon vinaigrette. To create your vinaigrette, top your carpaccio with a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and you are done.
Deborah Mele 2013
Easy Beef Carpaccio
- 1 Pound Beef Tenderloin
- 1 (5 Ounce Box) Fresh Baby Arugula, Washed and Dried (See Notes Above)
- 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Divided
- Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 3 Tablespoons Freshly Squeezed Juice From About 2 Lemons
- 1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- 1 Egg Yolk
- 10 Small Tomatoes Cut Into Quarters to Garnish
- Wrap the beef tenderloin in plastic wrap, and chill in the freezer for 1 hour.
- Using a very sharp knife, cut the beef across the grain into 1/8-inch-thick slices.
- Place the slices between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper and gently pound with the flat end of a meat mallet, or roll with a heavy rolling pin until paper thin.
- Arrange the slices on 6 individual chilled plates.
- Add the arugula to a bowl and toss with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Arrange the arugula in a pile in the center of each plate.
- Place the remaining 4 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, mustard, egg yolk, salt and pepper in a 2-cup measure.
- Use an immersion blender or hand blender to mix until thick.
- Drizzle the mustard sauce around each plate avoiding the arugula.
- Garnish the plates with the tomato quarters and serve immediately.