August 6, 2010

Almost Argentenian

If you are like me you grew up eating 79-cent Taco Bell tacos, and only in more recent years discovered taco-truck tacos, and they quickly became your 'fast food' of choice, because of their sabor authentico... that and the fact that by buying $1.50 taco truck tacos you are supporting local business. Okay, I don't really know how authentico taco-truck tacos are, but I know that I much prefer real-meat-flavor and texture wrapped in fresh soft corn tortillas and garnished with fresh cilantro-salsa over the alternative.

I would hate to steer you wrong when it comes to authenticity.  I recently posted on Facebook that "I bought a beautiful bunch of parsley that I needed to use up.  I'm thinking chimicurri sauce..."  You know, that green stuff that looks like pesto, but that is made with parsley instead of basil?  I had never made chimicurri, so I needed a recipe.  I googled chimicurri and came up with lots of recipes, but one was quite different than the others.  The guy who wrote about it seemed to have a bone to pick with all the American celebrity chefs who tout that bright green sauce as authentic Argentinian chimicurri.  And since this guy lives in Argentina and writes about asados and Argentinian food and has devoted multiple blogs posts to this condiment, he must know what he's talking about, right?

I really don't know, but just in case his recipe is more authentic than the parsley-pesto version (and since it did not require a food processor), I chose his version as my inspiration. Notice that I said 'inspiration.' That's my little disclaimer that means that even if his version is authentico, my version is not. I changed it a little.  He is very clear that jalepeños and cilantro are not authentic in Argentinian chimicurri, but I added a jalepeño.  I've had a pound of jalepeños sitting in my produce bin for a week, because I was going to make escabeche, those delicious jalepeño-spiked pickled carrots that the taco trucks serve, but I accidentally used up all of the corresponding carrots to make baby food.  If I had had cilantro on hand I would have added some, because I just love the fresh flavor.

Chimicurri is a popular condiment for grilled meats in Argentina.  Some cooks use it as a marinade as well.  It is a vinegar-oil sauce with fresh herbs and vegetables.  Ideally, it is made a few days ahead of time so that the vinegar-oil can extract some of the delicious flavors from the herbs and vegetables and so the flavors can kind of soften or marry. Plan ahead and prepare chimicurri while you are making a salad earlier in the week.  Just chop up some extra veggies and herbs, put them in a jar and cover with vinegar and oil.  The wait time cuts the harsh acidity of the vinegar and results in a fresh-tasting, slightly crunchy constrast to a meaty, smokey steak.  And if you prepare some chimicurri and frijolies a couple days in advance, simply grill a steak and accompany with some crusty bread or tortillas to have a quick weeknight meal.  Whether or not it is authentico, it is delicious: tangy, crunchy, colorful.  One large spoonful takes a meal up a notch.

Chimicurri Sauce
Inspired by Asado Argentina

To serve, spoon over sliced meat, chicken or fish, or assemble a sandwich using thinly sliced steak and chimicurri on good baguette.  This would also be fabulous served over a poached egg on a bed of frijoles.  

1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, stems removed, chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 small bunch cilantro, stems removed, chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalepeno, cut in half, seeds removed, minced
1 small pepper (use red or yellow for a good color contrast), chopped
1 small tomato, peeled, seeded an chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
a good shake of red pepper flakes
1-2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (I used white wine vinegar.  I'm sure apple cider vinegar would work well.)
1/2 cup water
1 cup canola oil or extra virgin olive oil

In 1 quart mason jar (or similarly sized vessel), combine all ingredients except salt, oil, vinegar and water. Sprinkle in salt and stir.  Let sit half an hour.  (Though not totally necessary, this waiting step helps extract some of the flavors from the veggies and herbs.  I forget to do this step.) Add vinegar and water and wait another 30 minutes, if time allows.  Finally add oil. Stir. Be sure that the herbs and vegetables are covered by at least a 1/4 inch of liquid.  If they are not, add equal parts vinegar, water and oil until they are.  Refrigerate at least a day, but ideally 3 or 4 days before serving over grilled meat, chicken or fish.  If oil congeals, allow to sit at room temperature to bring to liquid consistency before serving.


  1. Honey-child: I grew up with 19 cent tacos!!!

  2. Inflation isn't very fair, is it?