Argentinian Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce
This is it, the home stretch before my long awaited trip across the world to SE Asia, where I will be inundated with a world of new and exotic flavors, textures and cooking techniques that I have only been able to dream about. In the past few days, the strange realization that I would be without my comforting bed/foods/girlfriend began to hit me like a Mack truck.
But this was not an unhappy feeling. No sir/ma’am, I was merely sensing another opportunity to indulge in all of my favorite home cooked meals and local dining establishments! I was hoping to stuff my face with as many burgers, sandwiches and stews that would make me feel like a damn proud American.
Only one small thing was keeping me from overdosing on happy fats and girl scout cookies…I’m travelling to a beach … shirt off in public?? It’s bad enough I’m pasty from our lingering winter season/hibernation.
So gym excursions and healthy eating was my course of action, which meant lots of veggies and (reasonably) lean proteins. Thankfully, those are my two favorite food categories so it’s been a relative breeze.
Recently, my desire to eat healthy, cheaply and efficiently (I like that term more than admitting I’ve been lazy) has not led me to much food inspiration for blog posts. I’m talking veggies and hummus for dinner kinda meals here folks :/
With one week left until I leave though, I found my second wind and am ready to pump out some posts including this first one you’re currently reading.
Picking out a recipe to try this weekend was difficult until I stumbled upon a No Reservations episode with Tony in Argentina. Those familiar with Argentinian cuisine know how important both high quality cattle and their ubiquitous steak sauce, Chimichurri, is to them. Grilled meats in Argentina are never served without a side of Chimichurri, a brightly colored sauce with herbs, garlic, and tangy vinegar.
It just so happens to be one of my all time favorite pairings with steak and easily blows A1 steak sauce out of the water in my opinion. Its bright fresh flavors remind me of summer and I haven’t consumed a real, honest to god steak in months. The time was now.
I have made this countless times, and I personally feel that the steaks which pair best with this Chimichurri sauce, are those former throwaway cuts known as Flank, Flat Iron and Skirt. Between the texture, flavor, and fat content, these are a perfect accompaniment to our star steak sauce. Well then, what about that sauce?
Make this enough times and you learn a few things;
- Everybody you will meet will have an opinion on what is Authentic Argentine Chimichurri sauce, even Argentinians will disagree. Some say that you should never use cilantro or oregano. Some will say that they must include both, but never red pepper flakes. Regardless of what people deem authentic, I can promise that this one meets most of the criteria for the real deal, and after trial and error its damn near perfect in my opinion!
- I have always preferred to hand chop my herbs for this sauce, though many recipes will insist that it can be done in a food processor, I feel like the flavor is never quite right. I don’t know if the pulsing blades damage the leaves too much or impart a metallic flavor to the oils, but I have always had much better results from good old fashioned manual hand chopping. Honestly though, whats better than tasting food that you made by hand anyways right? Right. Good. Glad we’re on the same page. In all seriousness though, it’s quite possible that I had a shitty food processor and yours will produce much better results! This was just my personal experience.
- Lastly, this stuff is awesome right away, but it gets even better if you let it sit in the fridge a few hours or overnight to let the flavors all marry one another. If you only have 30 minutes to let it develop, have no fear, it will still be delightful!
While the Chimichurri sauce is what will set this whole dish apart from your usual grilling fair, it’s still important to get the meat just right. In all of my internet searching, hand me down lessons, and practical application and experimentation, the one resource that has helped me produce the best results by far was a food lab piece on grilling from the foodie blog Serious Eats. Some of the more useful information that I have found in it helped flesh out my directions below. Namely, the application of salt and grilling technique.
- 1-3 lb flank, flat iron or skirt steak (Any cut of beef will do.)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Argentine Chimichurri Sauce:
- 2 cups fresh parsley and/or cilantro, firmly packed
- 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves (optional)
- 3-6 cloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped onion
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (optional)
- 1 tablespoon lime juice (optional)
- Kosher salt and red pepper flakes to taste
Chimichurri Sauce Directions:
Hand Chopped Directions: Finely chop all of you herbs and garlic then move them into a bowl.
- Whisk in the olive oil, pouring slowly while whisking with the other hand. Helps having a second pair of hands if possible. Next whisk in remaining ingredients until a loose sauce sits before you.
- Food Processor Directions: Place parsley, garlic, oregano, vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper (to taste) in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Process until finely chopped, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed, about 1 minute total.
- Transfer sauce to an airtight container and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 1 day to allow the flavors to meld. Before serving, stir and season as needed. The chimichurri will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Remove the steaks from the fridge at least half an hour prior to grilling in order to let them come to room temperature. This will ensure proper cooking and texture. Prep your grill, be it charcoal or gas/propane, and get the sucker up to 375 degrees or so and let the grill grates get hot for 10 minutes or so to come to temperature for searing, and to cook off and old debris from previous cooking.
- Before you throw the steaks on the grill, brush the grates will a steel brush to remove any and all old cooked on debris, then brush with olive oil to help ensure the steaks don’t stick.
- When to season your steaks is the most important aspect of getting a steak to come out perfect. Truth of the matter is that you
should salt your meat about 40 minutes before it hits the grill. When the salt first hits a steak, it sits on the surface. Through the process of osmosis, it’ll slowly draw liquid out of the meat, which you’ll see pool up in little droplets. As those droplets grow, the salt will dissolve in the meat juice, forming a concentrated brine. At this stage in the game
—about 25 to 30 minutes in—your steak is in the absolute worst shape possible for grilling. That moisture will evaporate right off, leaving you with a tough, stringy crust. Give it a bit more time, and eventually that brine will begin to break down some of the muscle tissue in the meat, allowing the juices to be re-absorbed, and taking the salt right along with it. What does this lead to? Meat that is both better seasoned and more tender and moist when you cook it. It is also important to use Kosher salt, not just regular old table salt. The larger grains of kosher salt are easier to sprinkle evenly with your fingers, and will also draw more initial moisture out of the meat to dissolve than table salt.
- “The amount of juices a steak loses is directly proportional to the temperature you cook it to (note: not the temperature you cook it at). So why does a slow-start, sear-at-end roast lose less moisture? It has to do with the length of time it takes to build up a good, crusty sear. Throw a raw steak on the grill (or in a pan), and the cold, moist meat takes a long time to heat up to the point where it can begin browning and crisping properly. By the time it’s well-seared, the outermost layers are already overcooked and you’ve lost the battle before you’ve even begun to cook the steak through to the center.” (from: J. Kenji Lopez, SE)
- Start a steak out on the cold side of the grill with the cover on (other than when flipping, of course) on the other hand, and by the time it’s reached within a few degrees of the proper final temperature (more on that in a moment), its exterior has already gotten a good head start on the browning and crisping phase. All it takes is a moment on the hot side of the grill to crisp up. You end up with meat that is as crusty as you could hope for, and perfectly evenly cooked from edge to edge.
- It’s helpful to use a thermometer to gauge the done-ness of your steak to your ideal. I prefer my steaks to be medium rare! After your steak is finished, pull it of the grill and let it rest a minimum of 10 minutes ( I prefer 15 as this application works best on a slightly cooled, super juicy steak)
- Top your well rested grilled steak with the chimichurri like any other steak sauce and enjoy!