Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Chimichuri Sauce Makes Argentina Beef and everything else SING!

Chimichuri, a traditional Argentina food, is a fresh sauce used with beef or meats. As far as I am concerned, it can be used with pretty much everything! When I was in Argentina, I noticed this green sauce -- sort of a dense vinaigrette -- offered wherever grilled beef was served.

Now, in my opinion, Argentina beef is the finest beef known to man and needs no accompaniment. But when in Rome, etc. -- so I spooned some alongside my bife de chorizo (grilled strip loin steak -- also called New York strip). I quite liked the flavor -- redolent with oregano, not spicy, with a hint of lemon and olive oil. Some of the chimichuri got onto my side salad and I lapped it up!

Once back from Argentina, I didn't give this green sauce another thought, but then a few days ago, a Food Channel program featured a chap talking about a simple food for working cowboys (gauchos) in Argentina. When he mentioned chimichuri sauce, I stopped channel surfing and watched. It seems the television show' presenter's (host's) father was setting up a traditional barbecue in an open field, where a group of cowboys waited for dinner. The host prepared the chimichuri. And that's how I learned its name.

From what I can remember, his recipe included a large handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, a lesser amount of fresh oregano leaves, juice of a large, fresh lemon, 5 cloves of garlic, a teaspoon or so of hot pepper chili flakes, a few tablespoons of sherry vinegar, and a shallot, all chopped into smaller pieces, then placed in a food processor and whirled as he trickled olive oil through the top. Pretty simple.

Seeing chimichuri and barbecue brought back fond memories of Argentina beef steaks, so I thought I try to make my own chimichuri. I reduced the amount of garlic to 3 cloves, and added a bit of water to thin it, but overall, it was brilliant! Such fresh flavor! Such a great blend of flavors! I put chimichuri on my steak, on chicken, on scrambled eggs, on salad and on steamed veggies! Then later, I regretted making a pig of myself -- such strong garlic!

I remembered I had the book Food and Drink in Argentina, so I checked my copy. Sure enough, there's a recipe for chimichuri (page 106) that calls for 10 cloves of garlic!! as well as thyme, sweet paprika, basil, salt and pepper. The preparation method is different, too: All ingredients are placed in a bottle, and shaken, and a full cup of boiling water is added. This chimichuri is kept in the fridge, and used to brush meats before and during grilling AND as a serving sauce.

These two different recipes, and slightly different prep methods, makes me suspect that chimichuri is a sauce of the people, and each person makes it slightly differently depending on personal preferences and available ingredients. If that's the case, I am adopting my own version of this tasty sauce that's now one of my favorites. My version will forgo garlic (well, maybe ONE clove). And I shall try to restrain myself and not put chimichuri on everything!

If you are planning to travel to Argentina, get a copy of Food and Drink in Argentina(I wish I had read it before I went), and pop over to Snapshot Journeys Argentina section to see my pictures. And if you AREN'T planning to travel to Argentina, then START! The beef steaks alone are worth the trip!
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