Chimichurri, a delicious if curiously named garlic and parsley based sauce from Argentina, is a wonderful way to dress up steaks. It reminds me a lot of the salsa verde used in Italian cooking for boiled meats, and given the large Italian diaspora in Argentina (upwards of 60% of Argentinians are of Italian ancestry) I have to think the similarity is not merely coincidental. Chimichurri is rather more piquant and is used for grilled meats rather than boiled ones. It also goes very nicely on potatoes, if you ask me, and can be used as a marinade as well. There are an incredible variety of recipes for chimichurri, with some versions being more red than green, but here is a basic recipe that will serve you well, to which you can add all sorts of extras if you heart so desires. I am giving pretty loose measurements; let your own eyes and tastebuds be your guide.
The basic recipe:
- A handful of parsley
- A few sprigs of cilantro
- A sprig or two of fresh oregano (or a pinch of dried)
- 1-2 cloves of garlic (some recipes call for much more)
- A drizzle of vinegar (red or white)
- Salt and pepper
- Red pepper flakes (or ají molido, if you can find it), to taste
- Olive oil
- A fresh bay leaf (many say this is an essential part of a ‘real’ chimichurri)
- Red pepper
- Red (or yellow) onion
- Lemon juice (instead of or in addition to the vinegar)
- Pimentón (Spanish paprika)
The sauce couldn’t be easier if you use a food processor: Using the pulse function, chop the herbs and garlic all together. Then add the other ingredients and process until you have a smooth (but not entirely uniform) paste. If too thick, add more olive oil. Taste and adjust as you like by adding a bit more spice or vinegar or whatever.
Using a more traditional method: Chop all the solid ingredients finely and put them into a jar, together with the rest of the ingredients, and shake well.
Let the sauce rest for an hour or two before using. (Some recipes call for letting the sauce rest overnight.)
As noted, there are numerous variations that you can play with. This article (in Spanish) includes an interesting ‘study’ of various typical recipes that shows just how much variety there is, even among ‘authentic’ recipes. The red variety of chimichurri, for example, uses much less herbs and much more tomato, red pepper and/or chiles. Some recipes call for adding just a bit of hot water to the sauce at the end, which slightly cooks the garlic and other ingredients and mellows their flavors. (If you do this, use a bit less oil.) While indisputably Argentinian in origin, you will find this sauce all over Latin America, as far north as Mexico, where they prefer a red-style sauce with dried chili peppers. There are various stories about how chimichurri got its name. Some say it has an indigenous origin, others that it is a corruption of the English phrase “Give me the curry” or Jimmy Curry, the name of an English merchant who imported Argentinian beef to the UK. Some say the word comes from the Basque language. Who knows what the real story is, but no matter , it’s the taste that counts!
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