Crudo is elegant, delicious, and easy to make if you can find very fresh fish. Image source:Flickr CC user Edsel Little
I had big plans for dinner. The day before I had ordered several pounds of beautiful, ivory white halibut fillets. They were so fresh I knew just a few days ago they were swimming at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean somewhere, probably the cold waters off Alaska.
While my husband and I were showing out-of-town guests the sights in San Francisco, the halibut was waiting for me at the bottom of the refrigerator at home. When we got home I was going to make one of my favorite recipes--baked halibut with black olives, fennel, and shallots--and serve it outside on a warm summer night. It’s a delicious dish that never fails to impress.
But you know what they say about the best laid plans…
My car was gone, towed for parking just a bit in the red. As I called the towing service, my status as a trusty tour guide was taking a hit as my guests and husband started looking irritable and tired. Two hours and $200 later, we got the car and headed home.
Making Lemons into...Crudo
As I rummaged through my mind I had one thought, “Crudo!” Crudo is Italy’s version of sashimi. Instead of soy sauce or ponzu, crudo is usually flavored with olive oil, citrus, fresh herbs, and salt and pepper. It takes only a few minutes to prepare, but guests never fail to ooh and ahh over it. Like sushi or gravlax, it’s one of those dishes that people think you can only get in restaurants, but it’s simple to make at home, and it doesn’t even involve turning on the oven.
You’ll just want to make sure your fish is exceptionally fresh. As with sushi, you don’t want to eat crudo that’s made from fish that’s been sitting. The best way to ensure it’s right off the boat is to buy it online from a reputable company.
Because of the popularity of tuna and salmon sushi, when people make a raw fish dish, halibut isn’t usually the first fish to come to mind. But I believe this sustainable, delicious fish doesn’t get used enough in its raw state. It’s firm and meaty, which makes it great for grilling and baking, but it truly shines when it’s not cooked at all.
Dinner Is Served
Here’s what I used to make my emergency crudo:
To make my crudo, I combined the fresh-squeezed lime and orange juice and the thinly sliced shallots I was going to use for the baked halibut recipe and let it sit for a bit. Doing it this way allows the acid in the citrus juice to help take the bite out of the shallots. Meanwhile, my husband prepared a big Caesar salad.
After 15 minutes I whisked in a thin stream of my priciest extra virgin olive oil into the citrus (keep tasting as you add oil to find out what acid balance you like best) and shallots and added salt and pepper, making a simple vinaigrette.
Next I took the halibut out of the refrigerator and cut it across the grain into bite-size slices and arranged it artfully on a platter. I used a mandoline to slice a few radishes paper thin for a bit of crunch. I arranged those on top of the fish. Next I sprinkled on some coarse kosher salt and drizzled my vinaigrette on top. A few fronds from the fennel I had planned for the original recipe added the final touch. Crudo and salad. Dinner was ready.
This recipe was improvised, so you should also feel free to use what you have on hand--any herb is fair game to sprinkle over your crudo (like basil or dill) and almost any vegetable (or fruit) can also work, if sliced thinly so as not to compete too much with the fish. I’ve had crudo with corn, cucumbers, and even thinly sliced pears.
As good as my recipe for baked halibut is, it was nowhere near as memorable as the crudo I whipped up. Given that we had a big lunch, this lighter, improvised dinner was just the thing to take the edge off a tumultuous afternoon. Of course, the unoaked local chardonnay we opened helped, too (a great choice to go with crudo, by the way).
Planning ahead for a dinner party is key, but as my car fiasco makes clear, you can’t plan for everything. When it comes to buying fish, though, you can be prepared for a great dinner--and any changes in plan--when you order the freshest seafood online from DailyFreshFish.com. Our fish is high quality, minimally handled, and fresher than store-bought fish. That’s something you can count on.