Grilling, the most primal cooking method, is revered as summer sport by men everywhere. It's practically religion in one country, Argentina. This multicultural nation with a unique blend of nationalities, traditions, and customs can only have a renowned food culture. Known for tango, football, and Eva Perón among many other things, Argentina consumes the most beef worldwide and is the third largest importer. Argentinians pretty much grill anything to great effect. Steakhouses, called churrascaria, throughout the cities serve up meats straight from their spits and are sliced right at the customer's table. I can't imagine a better way to enjoy steak.
A popular cut of beef in the traditional asado (barbecue) is skirt steak, a grainy cut from the underside of the animal. In the States it's considered a cheap cut, but there is no more flavorful steak than skirt. It's appreciated throughout Latin America, especially in Argentina, Brazil, and in Mexico where it is commonly used in fajitas. Grill it just until medium-rare, it becomes tough past medium. What goes better with steak than a potent sauce? Argentina's answer to steak sauce is chimichurri, a concoction of fresh herbs, garlic, oil, and vinegar. No one really knows how the sauce got its name, but it's the most popular condiment for all things grilled. Use it also as a marinade. I can't think of a better pairing than steak with chimichurri this coming father's day.
Grilled Skirt Steak
1-1/2 pounds skirt steak
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
chimichurri sauce, recipe follows
Preheat gas grill or grill pan to high.
Trim any fat or membrane from steak. Cut steak into two or three manageable lengths.
In a small bowl, combine oil and paprika. Brush steak with mixture. Liberally season with salt and pepper.
Grill 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Rest for 5 minutes.
Once ready to serve, slice steak diagonally against the grain. Pile slices on a platter and drizzle over with spoonfuls of chimichurri. Serve additional sauce on the side. Yield: 4 hearty servings.
Note: I prefer using a mortar and pestle to make my chimichurri. The sauce is more flavorful when it is made by hand. Alternatively use a food processor.
3 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup finely chopped parsley (about 1 bunch)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
In a large mortar, mash garlic together with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Add parsley and cilantro; mash until herbs release their aromas and essential oils. Stir in oil, vinegar, and paprika. Keep at room temperature until ready to serve. Leftover sauce should be refrigerated and lasts for a few weeks. Bring back to room temperature to serve. Yield: 1-1/2 cups.