MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
Italian and sushi. Two words you wouldn't naturally put together, right? Well, David Pasternack is trying to change that with a dish called crudo. And David Pasternack is with me now. David, what exactly is crudo?
Mr. DAVID PASTERNACK (Executive Chef, Esca; Author, "The Young Man and the Sea"): Crudo is Italian sashimi. It's raw fish that's dressed with olive oil, sea salt, sometimes lemon juice, lime juice, sometimes some kind of weird vinegars and stuff like that.
Mr. PASTERNACK: Very simple.
NORRIS: Now, David Pasternack, who's here in the studio with me, is a chef in New York who began serving crudo at his restaurant called Esca. Now the word Esca means bait in Italian. Pasternack is now trying to bring crudo to home kitchens with a cookbook called "The Young Man and the Sea." And David is with me on the studio to tell us about his signature dish and to give us a quick demonstration. So glad you're here.
Mr. PASTERNACK: Oh, excited to be here.
NORRIS: Now you were inspired to begin serving crudo in your restaurant in New York City after a research and development trip in Italy.
Mr. PASTERNACK: The little trip - we were up to Trieste and then we - a friend of ours had taken us to actually Croatia along the Dalmatian Coast. And we went to this sort of restaurant. We drank a little slivovitz and we ate raw fish, and it was just thinly sliced, dressed with olive oil, a little lemon juice and sea salt. And I was like, well, this is a brilliant idea. Why isn't anybody doing this in America?
NORRIS: So you decided to do it in New York.
Mr. PASTERNACK: So I brought it back to New York. We opened Esca and I tried it with just a couple of items. And it's growing and it's growing, it's become much more popular. And as you said, you know, there's many places doing it around the country. I always say we're copied by many, imitated by few.
NORRIS: Ah, okay. Now you've been serving this in your restaurant. You're now trying, with this cookbook, to encourage people to try this at home. David, you have access to some of the freshest fish in the world. Can you do this at home? Do you have access to fish that is fresh enough to serve raw fish at the home table?
Mr. PASTERNACK: Well, say you take a recipe out of the book, and you say, I'm going to have a little dinner party, I'm going to have some friends over on Friday night. You know, you should go to your fishmonger, ask him what he's going to have available and that's how - it should be relationship.
NORRIS: How fresh does the fish need to be if you're making crudo at home?
Mr. PASTERNACK: It needs to be impeccably fresh.
NORRIS: So not frozen?
Mr. PASTERNACK: No, definitely not frozen.
Mr. PASTERNACK: And almost every fishmonger should be able to get you this product. They all have the accessibility. You know, maybe a special order, but that's fine. You're going to do a special party, make it the best.
NORRIS: Now, David, you have, oh, this is a beautiful display laid out here. You've got the fish and the oil and the salt and the lemons and the lime. What are we going to do first?
Mr. PASTERNACK: First what we're going to do is going to be fluke, also known as summer flounder, very popular in a sushi bar. So we're just going to make a couple nice, thin slices.
NORRIS: Okay. And you sort of slice horizontally almost, slightly diagonally. But...
Mr. PASTERNACK: Yep, a little - sort of diagonally.
NORRIS: So it really is like sashimi.
Mr. PASTERNACK: Right. And the key is with a fish like the fluke, there is a little bit of sinew on the bottom, so you know, you don't want to go all the way to the bottom. For fluke, I actually like the flavor of lime.
NORRIS: We should say you probably need a very sharp knife to do this.
Mr. PASTERNACK: My personal recommendation is that you ask your fishmonger to do it. Buy the fish, tell him how you want it sliced, and then all you have to do is come home, set it up on the plate, nice chilled plate. And at the last minute, when your guest is sitting down, they have a little champagne or prosecco in front of them, or you're doing it for yourself, with a cold beer, you turn the football game on, squeeze the acid on there, put the salt and all the other ingredients.
NORRIS: Okay. In this case, the acid is a little bit of lime.
Mr. PASTERNACK: In this case, we're going to use a little bit of lime juice. Okay? On this particular fish, we're going to use a little bit of the finest salt. And salt is very important. Go out and buy good quality stuff. Buy stuff that's unprocessed.
NORRIS: And now, how much?
Mr. PASTERNACK: You should be a little aggressive because the fish could actually handle that little bit of aggressiveness of the salt. And then I put a little bit of radish, which I just tossed with the lime juice. And then we're just going to drizzle the oil onto the fish.
NORRIS: Okay. And there's actually a fair amount of olive oil on here.
Mr. PASTERNACK: There is a good amount of olive oil. And you make sure you have yourself some good bread.
NORRIS: Okay, now. I'm sorry to chew on the radio. But is it okay if I just...
Mr. PASTERNACK: Please.
NORRIS: ...sample a bit of this before we go on? Hmm. Oh, that's delicious. It doesn't taste raw. It taste almost - not quite sushi?
Mr. PASTERNACK: It's different. In seviche, you would submerge the fish. And you would actually put the acidity on half an hour before, because you want the fish cooked. Here, we're not trying to cook the fish at all.
NORRIS: Now you're on the coast. So you have access to very fresh fish just right down at Fulton Fish Market. If you happen to live in the center of the country, it's a little bit harder to get fresh fish.
Mr. PASTERNACK: It's a little harder.
NORRIS: Is it worth paying the shipping cost if you have to?
Mr. PASTERNACK: It's worth paying the shipping cost because in fish, a lot of times, what you pay for is what you get. You know, like, the next thing we're going to do is we got some beautiful tuna. And it's got really nice fat content and this is going to be, you know, we're coming into the season of the blue fin tuna. So this is actually - this is a special treat today.
And with the tuna, we're actually going to do it little bit differently. And what we're going to do differently is we're going to put the acidity on the plate, not on the fish because with the tuna, the acidity will cook the fish, make it start turning white.
NORRIS: And this is a much bigger piece of fish. So, in this case, you're actually cutting...
Mr. PASTERNACK: Well, this one, I'm going to cut the pieces a little thicker because with the tuna, I like a little crunch at the fish. And you could see -with tuna, it's important. Americans have an eye for tuna, but they think that it really should be red - bright red. But when tuna is really good, it has kind of a more fatty color. If you look at this piece of fish here, right, and you touch it, it's very - it has a tremendous fat feel to it. And that's where a lot of the flavor is in the fish. And I'm going to give you a little bit with the coarse sea salt. And then I'm going to give you a little bit with the fine. And we're going to see which one you'll actually like better.
NORRIS: I'm trying one with the finer salt right now.
Mr. PASTERNACK: I'm going to go for one with the finer salt, too.
NORRIS: Okay. The whole thing in my mouth. One big gulp. Hmm. Mmm.
Mr. PASTERNACK: Wow.
NORRIS: Oh, that's a knockout.
Mr. PASTERNACK: That's a piece of fish, huh?
NORRIS: That is a knockout.
Mr. PASTERNACK: Now, think about why you're eating this piece of fish. It has a little bit of metallic flavor to it. It's a little tinny. It almost has a kind of like a beefy, meaty flavor.
NORRIS: There's also something that goes on after you've swallowed the fish.
Mr. PASTERNACK: The olive oil coats your mouth and it leaves that lingering flavor in your mouth.
NORRIS: Oh, this is good stuff.
Mr. PASTERNACK: Now, try a piece, when you get a chance, of that coarse salt. And it's going to be a very different experience.
NORRIS: Okay, there's one of these for you, too. Mmm.
Mr. PASTERNACK: Right? Now, it's crunchy.
NORRIS: Mm-hmm. Oh, if you serve this at a dinner party, people will swoon and then they'll leave your house and they will talk about you and they will say good things.
Mr. PASTERNACK: And you're not going to get rid of them.
NORRIS: Now, if we had a really - I wasn't thinking - because if we had a really wonderful piece of bread, we would just sop up olive oil.
Mr. PASTERNACK: Yup.
NORRIS: And it almost seems like we should have a nice glass of wine.
Mr. PASTERNACK: Most definitely.
NORRIS: Well, thank you so much for coming and to introducing me to crudo.
Mr. PASTERNACK: You're welcome. My pleasure.
NORRIS: David Pasternack's new cookbook is called "The Young Man and the Sea: Recipes and Crispy Fish Tales from Esca." Esca is the name of his restaurant. He left us a list of his favorite olive oil, salt and wine to use when making crudo. You can find his recommendations at our Web site, npr.org.