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Argentine Chimichurri and Chimichurri Butter

When it comes to steak, I'm a purist and like to go solo.  Hold the sauces, the grilled onions and the crumbled cheese, please.  Just the big beefy flavor of a properly seared & grilled steak.

Though there are two exceptions to that rule.  One is if we're talking about a complex red wine reduction.   And the other is when we're talking about the great Argentine gift to meat...la salsa chimichurri.

Chimichurri compound butter melting over a grilled steak
Compound butter made from chimichurri on a grilled sirloin


At it's core, chimichurri is really quite simple.  Parsley, olive oil and garlic.  It's something you can pull together in under 5 minutes in a food processor.  Rinse off some parsley, peel a few cloves of garlic and pulse it together with the oil.  Done.  

You may notice that it's very similar to an Italian gremolata (parsley, lemon juice and garlic).  Though in this case, swapping out the lemon juice with the olive oil makes it much more meat friendly.  Gremolata is great on grilled vegetables in the summer time or sautéing with some hearty greens.

Putting It To Use


Using chimichurri as a steak marinade
Chimichurri Steak Marinade
Here I've done chimi two ways.  One as a traditional sauce for dipping and the other in a compound butter.  If you've checked out my Smoked Salmon Rolls, you'll know there are times when you can't go wrong with a tasty compound butter.  I've also taken the chimichurri sauce one step further here and used it to marinate the steaks.  A few hours before cooking I rubbed some on the steaks, covered them in plastic wrap and put them back in the refrigerator to marinade.


About the chimichurri: I've adapted a recipe from Francis Mallmann in his Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way cookbook (which is a prominent member of my Essential Kitchen Bookshelf list).  In addition to the basic three ingredients mentioned above, he adds in oregano, red pepper and vinegar.  The red wine vinegar is great addition for making this a dual purpose sauce that can also marinate.

Be sure to use a full cup of parsley, tightly packed into the measuring cup.  If you don't have enough, go easy on the liquids or it'll be really soupy.  It all depends on your style, so adapt and adjust the oil, vinegar and water as necessary.

I'd also suggest using a food processor over a blender.  If you do use a blender, don't use the higher settings labeled pulverize or liquify - or the parsley will be completely dissolved.

Like any sauce, if you make this a day or two ahead of time you'll be rewarded by an even more flavorful end product.


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Traditional Argentine Chimichurri Sauce Recipe
This basic chimichurri, adapted from Francis Mallman's recipe, can also be made into an amazing compound butter
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 cup
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup Water
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Oregano
  • 1 cup Fresh Parsley (packed)
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/8 Teaspoon (pinch) Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Instructions
  1. Bring the water to a boil and mix in the salt. This is what is known as a salumera.
  2. In a food processor, add the garlic cloves and run 5 - 10 seconds until they are fully chopped
  3. Add in the parsley and oregano and pulse several times. You'll probably need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times and pulse again to get all of the leaves fully chopped
  4. Add the pinch of red pepper, red wine vinegar and olive oil and start running the processor. You can pour small amounts of the salumera until you reach a consistency that you like.

Chimichurri Compound Butter Recipe

This is pretty straightforward.  You'll want some softened butter to start.  I left 4 tablespoons of butter sitting out on my counter in a bowl for a few hours until I could easily mash it with a fork.

At that point, work in 2 tablespoons of your chimichurri and mix thoroughly.

To get it into fun little pieces to put on top of your steak will require some freezing.  Start by spreading out the butter onto a piece of parchment paper and attempt to roll it up.  Place it in the freezer and check on it about every hour or so to reshape it into a round log.

To keep this from melting immediately as soon as it touches a hot steak, you'll want to freeze it overnight.  Bring it out 15-30 minutes before serving so that you can slice off the pieces.

So what about the steaks?  Since it's the dead of winter in Chicago, I've cooked these indoors in a cast iron pan.  Check out my Diner Style Steak & Eggs for how to do this.  Oh, and don't forget to pop open a bottle of Malbec to enjoy with this great meal.  ¡Buen Provecho!