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Learn the 3 C’s of Raw Fish Preparation: Crudo, Carpaccio, and Ceviche

Build a raw fish dish with these expert tips from the Culinary Team

    Photo by Rachael Martin

    Ever eaten elegant fish carpaccio at an upscale restaurant or scooped fresh and tangy ceviche onto tortilla chips beach side while on vacation?

    The Culinary Team has created a step-by-step guide to making crudo, carpaccio, and ceviche in your own kitchen for when you don’t want to turn on the heat but still want an impressive and tasty seafood dish. Better yet? it’s easier than you think.

    First, let’s talk about the three C’s: crudo, carpaccio, and ceviche — and what distinguishes one preparation from another.

    Crudo is Italian for "raw". It can be served on a plate or in a bowl. The fish can be finely diced or sliced thin. Culinary Director Grace Parisi’s salmon crudo with shallots, lemons, and capers is an excellent place to get started.

    Carpaccio is traditionally served on a chilled plate, and the fish is sliced or pounded paper thin, so sharpen your knife or your knife skills before attempting — or just call it crudo if you don’t get the cut right! Wild at Home host recently made a plate of halibut carpaccio that you’ll want to make for dinner tonight.

    Ceviche is raw fish lightly cured in acid, so be sure to allow for 10 to 30 minutes before you enjoy or serve it to your guests. Let Richie inspire you with his summery take on white fish ceviche with nectarines, or check out Grace’s unconventional yet totally delicious Ginger-Sesame Salmon Ceviche.

    Before you get started, decide which preparation you prefer, then move on to Step 1.

    Step 1. Choose your fish

    Salmon is the perfect fish to start with, especially if you’ve never prepared raw fish at home before. We also love halibut, rockfish, and yelloweye. (Avoid cod, shrimp, or crab, which should be cooked.)

    Step 2. Cut the fish

    This step depends on your preparation. First, remove any skin and pin bones. For crudo or ceviche, opt for a fine dice. For carpaccio, slice the fish paper thin. For salmon, trim the gray insulating fat (aka, the blood line or mud line).

    Step 3: Choose your own adventure (Add flavors and textures)

    Like all adventures, a good map helps to avoid pitfalls and gets you to your destination, which in this case is a plate of food you want to devour.

    Culinary Director Grace Parisi says a good rule to remember is to “honor down.” In other words, select ingredients that compliment and highlight the flavor of the fish without overpowering it. The whole point of eating raw fish is to enjoy it in a pure, unadulterated state — not to mask it with other flavors.

    But that doesn’t mean you have to forgo bold flavors if that’s what your tastebuds love. Just use those flavors sparingly if you’ve opted for a delicate fish like halibut, rockfish, or yelloweye. For raw fish, remember that less is always more.

    Likewise, go for combos that make sense. Chocolate and fish? Does it make sense? Maybe at Noma or El Bulli, but we think it’s a good idea to leave that to the professionals.

    Here’s some some flavor combinations to get your wheels turning:

    • Capers, thinly sliced red onions, finely grated lemon zest (a classic combo for crudo)
    • Nectarines, mint, aleppo chile flakes (zippy and fresh)
    • Tomato, lime juice, cilantro, avocado, jalapeno (a classic combo for ceviche)
    • Sliced plums, thai basil, chipotle chile flakes (a mix of sweet, spicy, and smoky that's excellent on salmon carpaccio)

    Don’t forget to taste your ingredients together before you add them to the fish. The last thing you want is to realize that your imagination went off the deep end after you’ve combined it all with your fish.

    Step 4. Put it all together

    This is where the paths diverge a bit. If your final destination is ceviche, add all your ingredients to a bowl and toss gently to combine.

    For crudo, decide if you’re serving in small bowls or on composing the dish on a plate. If you’re serving in small bowls, add the diced fish and the aromatics to a medium bowl and chill the serving bowls. For a plate, follow the directions for carpaccio.

    Finally, if you’re making carpaccio, begin by arranging the thinly sliced fish on a chilled plate. Then artfully arrange your aromatics so that each bite of fish includes a little of each.

    Step 5. Drizzle with oil

    The purpose of oil here is to influence both texture (oil adds a pleasant mouth feel) and flavor. Think of this step (and the next one) like dressing a salad. You don’t want to dump ranch dressing all over a delicate baby gem salad with farmers market greens. The same idea applies here. Select an oil that won’t overpower the rest of the ingredients you’ve put so much thought into. Decide if you want a fruity olive oil, an oil infused with fresh herbs, or a spicy chile oil for heat. Maybe it’s a nutty walnut oil, toasted sesame oil, or buttery and mild avocado oil. Again, when pairing stronger-flavored oils with delicate fish, “honor down” and remember that less is more.

    For plated crudo and carpaccio, drizzle the oil over the top of everything. You can even get fancy and use a squeeze bottle to be a bit more discerning over where the drops of oil fall on each ingredient.

    For ceviche and crudo served in a bowl, add the oil to the bowl with your ingredients along with the fish and then toss to combine.

    Step 6: Add an acid

    More choices! We’ll narrow things down a bit for you and advise reaching for fresh citrus juice. Lemon, lime, satsuma, and yuzu are all great choices.

    If you’re making ceviche, you’ll need a higher concentration of citrus (the juice of a few limes versus just a squeeze of a half of one) plus more time to allow the fish to lightly cure.

    For crudo and carpaccio, a squeeze of a half a lemon, lime, or small satsuma should do. Dress the fish with citrus just before serving to prevent the fish from curing. You still want it raw when it arrives at the table.

    Step 7. Season with salt

    Use a finishing salt with large, crunchy flakes rather than a finely granulated table salt. This will help you avoid oversalting your dish as well as provide some texture.

    For added texture, crumble crispy salmon skin over the top of a carpaccio or crudo plate with more savory notes. We also love this kelp salt from Barnacle Foods in Alaska. Furikake seasoning is another great addition for texture. Just don’t forget the mantras “honor down” and “less is more.”

    Step 8. Eat!

    Need we say more? Eat up, and share your creations by tagging us on Instagram (@sitkasalmonshares).