Carpaccio Alla Bagna Cauda

Raw Beef with Olive Oil, Garlic, and Anchovy

On first glance, you might think that this recipe is an example of Italian fusion: a Venetian meat creation topped with a Piedmontese sauce. The reality is that carne cruda, chopped or sliced raw beef, has long been a part of the Piedmontese kitchen. Dressed simply with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, it is sometimes topped with shavings of white truffles, a regional addiction. Carpaccio, however, was created at Harry’s Bar in Venice in 1950, the year of a major exhibition of the works of famed Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio, whose paintings adorn the local church of San Giorgio degli Schiavoni. Legend has it that the dish was whipped up for a frequent customer whose doctor had placed her on a diet forbidding cooked meat. Now traditional carne cruda is commonly known by the more modern “carpaccio.”

Carpaccio is a natural for the enoteca menu. The sliced meat is typically refrigerated between sheets of oiled parchment or plastic wrap; then when an order is placed, the meat is slapped onto a serving plate and garnished in innumerable ways. Entire carpaccio menus have been created with the beef as a base for thin slices of porcini or raw artichokes or shavings of Parmesan. At the Enoteca del Gatto in Anzio, the beef is topped with toasted pine nuts, Parmesan curls, and a drop or two of aged balsamic vinegar.

While Harry’s Bar serves carpaccio with a mayonnaise-based sauce, L’Enoteca Les Pertzes, a wine bar in Cogne in Val d’Aosta, serves a carpaccio of young veal topped with bagna cauda. Bagna cauda, a Piedmontese specialty, is associated with the garlic-loving province of Cuneo. It is a hot sauce of olive oil, garlic, and anchovy into which diners typically dip pieces of bread or grissini and vegetables such as carrots, celery, cardoons, red peppers, and mushrooms. But it is also a delicious topping for raw beef, as this recipe illustrates.

Read more

Ingredients

  • pounds high-quality beef or veal fillet or lean baby beef
  • 6 large fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 3 baby artichokes, sliced paper-thin (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Bagna Cauda

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 16 to 24 cloves garlic, any green sprouts removed, minced
  • 4 ounces olive oil-packed anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter

Method

The quality of the meat is of primary importance, so it is imperative to patronize a top-quality butcher. Ask the butcher to slice the meat paper-thin. Some recipes recommend freezing the meat and then slicing it, but I find that the thawed meat tastes rather watery. As an alternative, ask the butcher to slice the meat about inch thick, and then you can pound it to the desired thinness between sheets of plastic wrap or oiled parchment paper.

To prepare the bagna cauda, combine the olive oil, garlic, and anchovies in a small pan and warm over very, very low heat, stirring often and mashing the anchovies with a wooden spoon, until you have a creamy sauce, about 15 minutes. Add the butter and stir until the butter melts. Keep warm.

To serve the carpaccio, place the sliced beef or veal on 6 plates. If the slices are small, arrange them in an overlapping rose pattern. If they are large, use one or two to cover each plate. If desired, top the meat with the mushrooms and artichokes, then grind on a little black pepper. Drizzle the bagna cauda over the meat and serve.