February Kitchen Play Part 1: Seared Beef Carpaccio with Fennel, Parmigiana & Truffle Oil

Mike and I were absolutely delighted to have an opportunity to participate in Kitchen Play‘s February Progressive Dinner Party, and even moreso when we were told that the challenge was for Canadian Beef! I love beef, from barbecued flank steaks to smoked briskets, and slow braised short ribs to juicy grilled burgers. Our entry to the party was the “wild card” video post, and we had a blast talking about different cuts and preparing our dishes.

There are so many great cuts of beef, from the expensive to the ignored, and after looking for inspiration on the Canadian Beef website I realized that I just couldn’t contain myself to one dish…so we made three. Our goal was to show off the flexibility of Canadian beef in a Mediterranean inspired appetizer trio that has ‘something for everyone’, from the carnivorous raw meat eaters (like myself) to the palate that craves slow cooked and meltingly tender cuts of flavorful beef.  After all, regardless of how you chop, slice or sear it, Canadian beef is delicious and that’s that.

The three appetizers start with a rare beef tenderloin, licked by heat and simply prepared to really show off the flavors of the beef, and move into a luscious pink rib eye with bright apple slaw, finally ending with a rich, succulent pulled beef shank on a heavenly herbed polenta medallion with mascarpone cream and sweet roasted tomatoes.  From light to heavy, and simple to complex, we hope that you’ll be inspired to try one of these appetizers and let us know what you think!

Our first appetizer is a play on classic beef carpaccio.  Traditional carpaccio is thinly sliced or pounded raw beef served in a mustard sauce, but over the years interpretations have included capers, parmigiana, hard boiled eggs, lightly dressed arugula and chives…the iterations are endless.  Modern carpaccio, as we know it, generally refers to something sliced very thinly and served raw with a complementary and often bold dressing or accompaniment.

Although I’m a fan of carne cruda, raw beef isn’t for everyone’s taste.  To that end, in this recipe the beef has been seared to get a nice brown crust but is still cool and blue-rare in the center.  If you’re seizing with horror right now, don’t worry…I’ve also included instructions on how to make roast your meat if rare or medium rare is as far as you’ll go.

When selecting a cut of beef for carpaccio, the most common choice is beef tenderloin.  One of the most expensive cuts of beef, the beef tenderloin is considered the King of Steaks because of it’s exceptionally tender texture.  Tenderloin is taken from the small end of the loin which is found on the back rib cage of the animal below the vertebrae.  Because this area of the animal doesn’t ‘work’ or bear weight, the muscle is not toughened through exercise which is why there is less connective tissue and the meat has a silky  melt-in-your-mouth feel.

Seared Beef Carpaccio with Fennel, Parmigiana & Truffle Oil

Serves 8 as an appetizer

  • 1.5 – 2 lb cut of beef tenderloin *
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 small bulb fennel (or 1/2 large)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1.5 – 2 ounces (45-60 g) Parmigiana Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tbsp truffle oil, approximately **
  • salt and pepper to taste

* This is a good time to find a butcher and start flirting with him or her.  Tenderloin is pricey so you want a clean, superior cut that is round, even and fully trimmed. It goes without saying that you don’t want a prepackaged cut that’s been stewing in plastic at the back of the meat counter for two weeks, and if anyone has the gall to try to serve you frozen tenderloin I strongly suggest that you swat their cheek with your glove and go huffing away.  It’s okay for you to flash freeze the meat before it’s sliced, but don’t you expect more from your butcher?

** Truffle oil is a significantly more economical option than fresh truffles, and a bottle of truffle oil will keep for 1-2 years in a cool dark place.  If truffle oil isn’t in your budget, you can simply drizzle the dish wish a splash of your best quality nutty extra virgin olive oil.   If you do have the funds, you could drizzle with olive oil and shave a few slices of white truffle on top.

If your tenderloin has not already been ‘prepped’ by the butcher, slice off any visible fat and silverskin from the meat.  If the cut has a shorter, narrow tail end, tuck that underneath and then tie the beef using butcher’s twine in 4-5 places so it’s a nice tight log.

Take the tenderloin out of the fridge at least 30 minutes in advance so that the meat can come to room temperature.  Pat the meat dry with paper towels or a very clean tea towel (that you don’t care about) and season generously with salt and pepper on all sides.

Heat a large, heavy bottomed frying pan over very high heat.  You want the pan to be scathingly hot.  To check this, hold your hand about 2 inches above it and count “One steamboat, two steamboats, three steamboats”.  It should be hot enough that you whisk your hand away and pout before you get to the end of three.  When you reach temperature, swirl in the oil to coat the pan.

Lay the tenderloin in the pan, angling it away from you to avoid any spatters.  Sear the tenderloin for 1-2 minutes per side until it has a nice brown crust.

Searing the meat is not traditional for carpaccio, but it does add a lot of flavor while still keeping the inside of the tenderloin a cool blue rare.  If that’s too challenging and doesn’t appeal to you, tuck the seared tenderloin into a 350ºF oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature is between 120°F – 125°F.

Let the tenderloin rest, uncovered, for at least 10-15 minutes.

Lay a long swath (or two) of plastic wrap down and tightly wrap the beef into a rounded log. Tie off both ends of the plastic wrap.

When the meat is fully cooled, tuck it into the freezer for 25-40 minutes. You don’t want the meat to be frozen, but the chill will firm it up enough that it’s significantly easier to slice.

While the meat is chilling, prepare the fennel slaw.  Remove the top stems from the fennel and reserve the fronds.  Shave the fennel into a medium sized bowl using a vegetable peeler.

Squeeze a lemon over the fennel and toss it with a generous amount of kosher salt (about 3/4 tsp).  In 20 minutes when the carpaccio is served, this will be like a citrusy quick pickle to brighten up the dish and the somewhat salty contrast of the slaw will season the meat when it is plated.

Using a long, thin, sharp carving knife, slice the tenderloin as thinly as you possibly can.  Good carpaccio is somewhere between paper thin and 1/16″.  If this is difficult, just do your best to slice as thinly as possible and then a few whaps with a mallet will pound the meat out and finish the job.

Lay 3-5 slices (depending on size) onto an appetizer plate.  Mound a bit of the fennel slaw in the center of the meat and shave a few nice slices of good parmigiana reggiano around the dish.  Sprinkle with just a few drops of truffle oil, being careful to keep a light hand because that’s pretty potent stuff.  For a bit of color and green, garnish with a few torn fennel fronds from what you reserved earlier.

For more beef recipes, visit the experts and enjoy some high quality Canadian beef.  If you decide to try your hand at this recipe for tantalizing rare carpaccio, you may have a chance to win $100!  Be sure to also check out our video and the other appetizers in the trio, including rib eye and beef shank recipes.

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  • http://messycook.blogspot.com Isabelle

    What a great dish – you guys went way above and beyond!
    Considering I usually like to order my steak “still mooing”, this carpaccio is definitely favourite of the trio… though the other two do look positively amazing, too. I’m totally in love with the fennel slaw, especially since you’ve given me hope for creating paper-thin slices without resorting to the finger-mangler-slash-wrist-slicer better known as a mandoline. 🙂

  • http://communaltable.wordpress.com Neil @ Communal Table

    Wow… three dishes! Great job! You really showcased how versatile an ingredient beef is, Canadian or otherwise. I love the idea of searing the carpaccio, and I think the flavours of fennel, parmesan and truffle oil would definitely complement the beef nicely.

  • http://www.eatingclubvancouver.com TS of eatingclub vancouver

    There was a carpaccio dish I LOVED that had a fennel salad on top. This brings back memories.

    Just to show you how much I loved it, I ordered it for a starter, then ordered it AGAIN for “dessert”!!! =D

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      You are totally my kind of girls. When we go out for all you can eat Japanese, I often have the green tea ice cream…followed by an order of udon soup!!