Friday, 9 August 2013

To Sear or Not To Sear? A Beef Carpaccio Dilemma

For many meat lovers, a beautiful beef carpaccio is a sight to behold. Ruby red wafer thin slices of raw fillet beef artfully displayed, ready to almost dissolve on your tongue, with some kind of crunchy vegetable adornment slicked in a tangy vinaigrette, pure heaven. To others, it's simply raw beef, and un-thinkable. Well think again. Never one to go cheapo on his guests, my Dad loves to 'make' carpaccio and it's always divine. Last week however, he took Jamie Oliver's  advice and seared the fillet first. He was rather concerned about this, but I thought it was a great idea. The beef would still 99% raw, but you get the divine flavour from searing it which simply does not exist with the fully raw one. If you want to get technical, read this about the 'Maillard' reaction which goes to some lengths to explain why you sear meat for a casserole, why it tastes good, and why it is important.

Or you could just cook take a very decent fillet of beef (you only need a little per person so no need to go overboard, Dad), rub a little olive oil all over it, season really well, and sear on all sides in a very hot pan, no need to add any more oil as you've oiled your beef already. If the pan is hot enough it should only take a minute or two per side, you want a deep golden brown colour all over. Slice as thin as you can and serve on a pretty place, sprinkled with shaved fennel, a little grated orange zest, rocket, shaved Parmesan, a dribble of extra virgin olive oil and a little more salt and pepper. 

Searing the beef makes it much less 'scary' even though it is still essential raw. The searing troubled Dad for some reason, he couldn't slice the beef as thinly as when it's all raw and semi frozen (helps you slice it thinner as it stays firm), but I can't see the harm in freezing it once seared and then slicing it.

What Dad should have been worried about was how much his head would hurt the next day, after staying up well past his bedtime with my Godfather, un-supervised, with a bottle of brandy. The beef was delicious, his hangover was not.


  1. Haven't been here in a while (sorry) but really enjoyed this post. My mum, hates the idea of raw beef. I think it's an asian thing; she even orders steak medium done (and then complains it's tough)! I think the light searing will help one get over any initial fears of raw meat, but still allow the pure flavour of good beef to shine - good one daddy!

  2. Nice to hear from you! Yeah it's a bit of a controversial one but certainly makes a carpaccio a little less scary, but the purists would leave it well alone I imagine! I feel so sad when I see beef well done!

  3. Shu Han--Just got the record, it is not true that disliking raw beef "is an Asian thing". There are
    loads of examples across different Asian cuisines where meat and fish are eaten raw or almost raw.

    It's odd that you would attribute your mother's dislike of raw meat to her being Asian. Why didn't you attribute it to her being a mother?