Thursday, May 9, 2013

Steak Gaucho-Style with Argentinian Chimichurri Sauce

They stood with with their wide rimmed hats buffeted by the wind, which also worked its way around their woolen ponchos and beat against the loose, baggy bombachas.  They stood their ground, watching over the herds of cattle who quietly grazed on the pampas.  They are the gauchos, the cowboys of the Argentine, Uruguayan or Southern Brazilian plains.

This dish is inspired by the cooking of the gauchos.  Out on the open plains, the principal food that they ate were the cows that they herded.  However, they had no way to store or preserve the meat.  This meant that they had to cook all parts of the cow as soon as possible over an open fire and eat it with the same dispatch. 

This food tradition was aptly portrayed on an episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, which is one of my favorite food shows.  Andrew was visiting Buenos Aires to explore the Argentine meat culture.  Of course, he sampled dishes such as achuras (cow innards) and chinchuhlines (small intestines).  Andrew also visited the Bamba Chica Ranch, where he learned about the lifestyle of the Argentine gaucho.  Andrew tells the story in his expert style:

"The gauchos started working on this about 12 hours ago, butchering a 9-month-old calf, removing the organs and then butterflying the entire carcass over the coals.  From here on, it looks simple, but there is an art to managing this fire.  The wood is going from the pile over here onto the fire over here, where it will burn down as coals, as the coals become the right color and temperature, they get spread underneath the animal.  In the end, they'll use more than a ton of wood to cook this asado con cuero....  After about ten hours on the grill, it's ready to go.  So in true gaucho style, grab a knife, a hunk of bread, and throw some elbows to get a piece of your favorite cut."

What could be better than having a knife, a hunk of bread and your favorite cut of meat?  I looked for a recipe and found the Steak Gaucho-Style with Argentinian Chimichurri Sauce recipe on Food Network's website.  In any event, I did not have that expertly maintained fire to cook this dish.  While I could have started a charcoal fire using my smoker, I decided to go with the easier, more straightforward route ... my gas grill.  Although some of the authenticity was lost, the grill still worked perfectly.  I will definitely make this recipe again, and again, and again!

Recipe adapted from Food Network
Serves 4

Ingredients (for the Chimichurri Sauce)
1 cup lightly packed chopped flat leaf parsley
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves (optional)
2 tablespoons shallot or onion, minced
3/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar, or red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Ingredients (for the steak):
3 tablespoons salt
2 1/2 pounds sirloin steak, 1 1/2 inches thick
2 baguettes, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1.  Prepare the chimichurri sauce.  Place all chimichurri sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until well chopped, but not pureed. Reserve.

2.  Grill the steak.  Season the steak with salt and pepper.  Place the steak directly over a hot grill and grill until the outer portion of the meat reaches the desired degree of doneness.

3.  Slice the steak and serve.  Remove the steak from the grill and slice long strips from the outer edges of the steak. Instruct guests to pick up a steak slice from the cutting board with their fingers, place it on a slice of baguette, spoon chimichurri sauce over the steak, and enjoy.

4.  Repeat, if necessary.  If the remainder of the steak is still too rare, return the steak to the grill, and grill until more of the steak is cooked. Remove and repeat the slicing and serving procedure until steak is consumed.  Spoon chimichurri sauce over the remaining steak.

Obviously, this dish calls for a pairing with an Argentinian Malbec wine, such as the Bodega Luigi Bosca Malbec.


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