The proud country of Argentina is known for many amazing people, arts and food: Tango, dulce de leche, gauchos and of course, great beef. The sauce Argentinians use to dress their steak is called Chimichurri and while it looks like a pesto sauce, it is not.
Chimichurri is actually made mostly from parsley, with some oregano and a goodly amount of garlic, vinegar, oil and spices. It happens to be one of the world’s great sauces, IMHO – and you’ve never truly had a steak until you’ve tasted one grilled and dressed with this fantastic condiment!
Food historians tend to agree that this most famous of Argentinian sauces was probably invented by the cowboys or gauchos to give additional savor to the meat they cooked over open fires out on the pampas (the wild Argentine grasslands) where beef is raised. It is thought that the original sauce used mostly dried herbs, as fresh herbs were hard to find out on the pampas. Today, most people use fresh – though my recipe includes some dried oregano in memory of the original sauce.
The origin of the name ‘chimichurri’ is a bit of a mystery. One story says that the name comes from ‘Jimmy’s curry’, Jimmy being an Irish or Englishman whose name was difficult for the Argentinians to pronounce. Other stories say the name of the sauce comes from the Basque settlers who arrived in Argentina in the 19th century, and is derived the word ‘tximitxurri’, loosely translated as “a mixture of several things in no particular order”.
Regardless of its etymology – this is a sauce you must try for yourself, Citizens!
Mine is – immodestly – the best I’ve ever tasted. I hope you will find agreement with me. I’ve slightly tweaked the classic recipe to include a bit more oregano and to use Aleppo pepper flakes instead of crushed red pepper – I find it adds a slight smoky dimension that really complements grilled meat. Feel free to use the classic ingredient if you so prefer.
Some recipes use a crumbled bay leaf – I use powdered bay leaf instead for a stronger flavor and ease of incorporation into the sauce. Lastly, I also use a combination of two different vinegars and fresh lime juice to provide the acidity, as I find one vinegar is a “one-note” where it should be a symphony of flavor!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
PS – I am not going to get involved in the heated debate over whether the proper term is “Argentinian” or “Argentine”. 😉
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 bunches flat-leaf parsley
4 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
6 cloves garlic
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper flakes (preferred) or crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons dry oregano
1 teaspoon powdered bay leaf
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup white vinegar
4 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
¾ cup 1/8-inch-diced roasted red bell pepper
¼ cup 1/8-inch-diced red jalapeno or Fresno pepper
Mix together 1 cup of warm water with the salt in a bowl and set aside to cool. Combine the parsley, fresh oregano, garlic, and oil in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse quickly several times.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the vinegars in a bowl until well combined. Add the chopped-herb mixture from the food processor. Slowly stir in the saltwater mixture to achieve desired consistency, and then stir in the diced peppers. Taste and adjust vinegar balance to your liking. Will keep, refrigerated, for 1 week, but flavor weakens over time.