Friday, July 13, 2007


Chimichurri is an Argentinian marinade and sauce that, traditionally speaking, accompanies grilled beef. I first tasted it at Tango, a fabulous Argentinian restaurant in Arlington. They have bottles of it on each table, and you are encouraged to pour it liberally on the vast array of beautifully grilled meats on their menu (if you go to Tango, try the flank steak- it's fabulously juicy and flavourful).

From what I've read, this will sound blasphemous to purists, but I'm going to say it anyway: chimichurri is good- really, really good- on just about anything!

We recently hot-smoked a pork loin for a dinner with friends, and I decided that chimichurri would be a fabulous complement to the smoky, tender meat. I naïvely thought it would be easy to find a good, straightforward recipe. It turns out that finding chimichurri recipes is easy... but deciding which one to use is not so simple!

As with many recipes, it seems, there are numerous debates as to what makes up the authentic version. Cilantro? Hot pepper? Tomatoes? Bell peppers? Carrots? The debates are numerous, and I quickly found myself lost in a sea of recipes. In the end, I decided that I should be more adventurous, and that I really didn't want carrots in my chimichurri.

I started with the basic common-thread ingredients: olive oil, vinegar, parsley, oregano, garlic and salt. Because L and I both love strong, spicy flavours, I added a few things I saw in the simplest versions: onion, lemon juice and spicy pepper. I pulsed everything briefly in the food processor, asked our friends to taste and review, adjusted a few things, pulsed again, and pretty soon ended up with a mixture that everyone liked. It turned out great the first day, but the leftovers were even better the second day.

Add this to your make-ahead list, or keep a jar of it in the fridge (if you're as addicted as we are), and you'll have one less thing to worry about at meal time.

makes approximately 2 cups

1 large bunch flat leaf parsley
2 large or 4 small stalks oregano, leaves reserved and stems discarded
5-8 cloves garlic (start with 5)
1/2 of one medium red onion
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (start with 2)
juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste
1-2 teaspoons sea salt (start with 1), plus more to taste
1 small spicy pepper, stem removed (optional)

Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until you have a thick paste. If you don't have a food processor, mince the herbs, onion, garlic and spicy pepper as finely as you can, then stir in the liquid ingredients. Taste and correct for vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, and salt- you're aiming for a bold, savoury flavour here, but don't forget that chimichurri will intensify as it sits.

If possible, let the chimichurri sit for at least one hour before serving.

UPDATE: I recently experimented a bit and made this with:

lime juice instead of lemon
thyme instead of oregano
small, newly harvested summer onions instead of red onion

It was just as good! We also discovered that, like pesto, chimichurri freezes really well.

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