Monday, July 18, 2011
The thought of eating raw fish has always repulsed me. I've never been a fan of sashimi, always having to douse my sushi rolls in soy sauce and cover them in pickled ginger. It's not that I don't like the taste. I think it's the thought of consuming a product that inevitably could cause some microbial disease if not prepared correctly that truly disturbs me.
Well, this mind set quickly had to change in Italy. During the service, one of my primarily responsibilities is making carpaccio. We have a shrimp carpaccio and a beef carpaccio. I would never think to order shrimp carpaccio when going to a restaurant, but it's one of our best sellers. Therefore I make it all the time, almost every single day. And with each time I make it, I must taste to make sure the seasonings are right. (One of the best parts of the job-sampling as you go!)
Surprisingly, I find it to be most delicious. Although you must get past the texture- it is raw shrimp after all- the seasonings make it the perfect summer appetizer. We flavor it with vanilla oil, a mix of spices, lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper. On top we garnish with a quenelle of fish tartare, a raw version of pesce that has been flavored with pesto, lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper. The flavors all come together harmoniously to create a very edible, very tasty dish.
Same goes with the beef. We season with olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon (the acid from the lemon is what makes eating raw safe). Then pair this with a light fennel salad and parmesan shavings. It's an excellent choice for a primi piatti.
Lately we've been making a fish tartare as for the entreè , or amuse bouche. We've been seasoning it with a variety of ingredients. One unique version is with fresh berries and fruits. It's delightful and perfect for a light starter. Plus, it makes for a beautiful dish.
Perhaps I find eating the uncooked protein sanitary because I do it myself, or maybe it's the fact I am in Italy and everything just tastes better here. But most importantly I think it is understanding complimentary ingredients that really highlight the raw meat. It's finding the balance between acidity and seasonings that make the dish work.
Pictured: Amuse bouche of fish tartare, flavored with fresh berries.