Chimichurri Sauce, No Better Sauce for Grilled Meats


The name is long and seemingly hard to pronounce. Which is not: shee-mee-shoo-reeh. Try it out. The recipe, on the contrary, is deceitfully simple. Few ingredients, nothing to cook, nothing to reduce, no time frame, no measuring cup. It is a little like ceviche: anyone can crank out a decent one following a recipe, but only the masters can make the really memorable ones. And they never follow a recipe. Anyway, I think I am digressing. Chimichurri is a super tasty cold sauce, which origin the beef eating nations of the Cono Sur (and this has nothing to do with the wine brand), i.e., Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay ardently dispute. Not to mention Bolivia, home of some of the best tasting beef you may ever find, to the dismay of the abovementioned peoples, particularly the denizens of Rio de la Plata (that would be Buenos Aires and Montevideo, for the geographically challenged). By the way, there is a good discussion on the subject of Chimichurri in the blog Asado Argentina.

Just like ceviche, Chimichurri’s versions are as copious as the promises of a politician in full campaign.  And just like ceviche, everyone argue that theirs is the best. In the case of ceviche, no doubt the Peruvian version trumps them all (there goes the chauvinist) but when it comes to Chimichurri….ay x 3 = carajo!* I favor the one from around Buenos Aires, with modifications, of course. So, for ease of narrative we’ll say here that Chimichurri is the archetypical Argentine beef asado (BBQ) sauce.

But before going to the recipe let’s say that within Argentina itself there is ample room for discussion –if not dissidence- as for when and how to make and use the sauce. Some Che’s will swear that you should never eat Chimichurri on anything else than on a ChoriPan, (Chorizo sausage in a bun “pan”) a juicy BBQ’d sausage in a bun. Others love it on their asado beef. Others slather it on the beef before grilling, which is anathema to most. Some never eat it with asado, as the beef flavors themselves suffice to render one’s palate entirely pleased. I must say that me, when in the Pampas (plains) of Argentina, never allow anything on my beef other than coarse salt. Again, for the ease of reading, let’s say that you want the Buenos Aires version on asado beef after it is done.

Having said this, I learned to eat Chimichurri as a kid, from my dad. He spent a good chunk of his young years in La Plata, studying medicine and came back to Peru full of Argentinisms. Among them, Chimichurri. But, to add fuel to the fire, I should add that I never ever enjoyed a good Chimichurri sauce better than on grilled squid, octopus or pan fried white fish. Ok, now, to the recipe.

RECIPE

1 bunch of Italian parsley. The plant with flat leaves, I mean. Who cares about that curly green stuff that is only good for buffet decorations. Chop it really fine. That is, the leaves only. Lay in bowl with coarse salt (start with a little and adjust to taste after sauce is complete), a teaspoon of chili flakes (or more if you like it hot), 2 or 3 large cloves of garlic crushed into tiny bits, a tablespoon of red wine vinegar (you may add two but don’t exaggerate with the vinegar), two heaping tablespoons of dry oregano leaves. I would say fresh, but here in Vancouver, oregano has very little umpf, really. If you have Sicilian or Greek oregano, use that instead. If you have Peruvian (from Moquegua region) oregano, you are laughing. No other oregano has that irresistible fragrance that only the sun drowned west slopes of the Andes can produce. Lemony and pungent, it will hold its perfume for months after you open the bag. Mix well with olive oil. When it comes to oil, there is a myriad interpretations: ¼ cup, 2 cups, blah blah. I say just start with a little, stir, then keep adding/stirring until the whole mix is glistening, then stop. Thin up with boiled and cooled water, until it is slightly runny. You can add a bit more, if you like it thinner like that. Moi, I like it thick, voluptuous, almost sinful. That is why, my friend, I was expelled from priest school, but that is another story. Stir well, pack in Mason jar or something and put in fridge. Scoop over bbq’d meats, chicken, fish or even over pan fried fish. Accompany with white rice in this last case. Don’t forget to Chimichurri your sausage in a bun sandwich.

No matter where it was invented, Argentina, Uruguay, Southern Brazil or Paraguay, Chimichurri is simply amazing.

Bon Apetit

*carajo! (kah-raw-hoe) is perhaps the most rich sounding, expressive expletive in the Spanish language. Gabriel Garcia Marquez inmortalized it in his novel A Hundred Years of Solitude: “Carajo! vociferated Jose Arcadio Buendia. Macondo is surrounded by water!”

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