Carpaccio is an old favorite of mine. Legend has it that this was invented by Giuseppe Cipriani (owner of Harry’s Bar in Venice), named after an artist whose name was Vittore Carpaccio, famous for his use of red and white tones in his paintings.
Essentially it is a cold dish of paper thin sliced beef or other meat, think of it like a salad, just meat based. This is an easy thing to make at home, but there are some tricks to it. Restaurants will generally slice their carpaccio on an electric rotary slicer, which gives paper thin slices of tender meat. Since you probably don’t have a giant mechanized slicer at home, I’ll share some other methods with you.
- The most important thing to remember is that, the colder your meat is, the easier it is to slice. Chefs know this, and 99% of the time the carpaccio meat will be frozen before it is sliced, making thin, almost transparent slices seem easy.
- Another way to make carpaccio is just to put thin slices of meat between plastic wrap and pound lightly with a meat mallet until very thin, this is probably the easiest for home preparation, and although it takes a while, it makes for a very tender carpaccio, just try not to rip the meat by pounding too hard.
Watercress is in season now, and it’s a nice compliment to something like this. If you don’t know where some wild watercress grows, try a farmers market or a local coop, they probably have more of the stuff than they know what to do with. The peppery flavor of the cress acts like horseradish or mustard, cutting through the richness of the raw beef and making it much easier to eat.
You need some acid with carpaccio too, since it’s very rich. Here I used some pickled hen of the woods mushrooms. If you are lucky enough to find a small baby hen, I really suggest pickling it to enjoy it later. I find the young ones taste like soft little oysters, they’re very nice.
Beef Carpaccio with Watercress, Goat Cheese and Pickled Maitake
Serves 4 as an appetizer
- 6oz top quality top round
- 2 oz fresh, wild or cultivated watercress
- 2 tbsp prepared mayonnaise
- 2 oz pickled hen of the woods mushrooms, see a recipe for those here
- 1 oz aged, sliceable goat cheese
- Salt and pepper
- Remove any tough or fibrous stems from the watercress, then wash the leaves gently and dry by wrapping in a paper towel or cloth. Lightly chop the watercress and mix it with the mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.
- Cut the cheese into thin slices, then reserve.
- 30 minutes prior to serving, remove the meat from the freezer.
- Using a sharp, long slicing knife, cut paper thin slices from the beef, placing them onto a large plate.
- Season the meat lightly with salt and pepper,
- Attractively arrange little dollops of watercress mayonnaise, pickled hen of the woods, and cheese on the beef, then add the reserved watercress leaves and serve immediately.