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The Thrill of the Grill: Churrasco with Chimichurri Sauce

A few years ago, I bought my husband a new barbecue grill for his birthday. This wasn’t just any old grill, mind you, but the mother of all barbecue grills. It was the Weber Performer [1]. This grill has it all – 22.5 inch porcelain-enameled bowl and lid, Touch-N-Go gas ignition system, 2 Char-Basket charcoal fuel holders, dual-purpose thermometer, heavy-duty steel cart frame. You name it…this baby has it! What self-respecting husband wouldn’t love that?

After I generously congratulated myself on my cleverness in selecting such a cool “man gift”, I began to envision lazy weekend afternoons, the heady aroma of charred meat wafting through the air, sipping margaritas on the patio with friends, children frolicking in the backyard…..Whoa! Back up! Frolicking? Well, you get the picture. Unfortunately, my husband did not. While he acted suitably impressed with the gift, and genuinely seemed to love it, several months went by before he actually used it.

He always seemed to have a good excuse – uh, I mean reason – why he couldn’t fire up the grill. “It looks like rain.” “I don’t have any charcoal/propane/wood chips.” “The big game is on.” All reasonable explanations, but frankly, I was beginning to get a little peeved!

Every so often, I would look out the window at that grill, just sitting there in the corner of our lanai, lonely and unappreciated.

Finally, I could stand it no more. If he wasn’t going to use that grill, then I would. I scoured my cookbooks and recipe files for a great “grill” recipe. I found the perfect one. Churrasco Steak with Chimichurri. I had made it before (under the broiler) and it was easy, different and delicious.

Churrasco is a Spanish term that refers to various kinds of fire-grilled meats. It is a very common dish in most South American and Latin American countries, but is particularly popular in Argentinian cuisine. The various components of the dish differ from country to country. In Argentina, churrasco steak is typically a long flat cut of skirt steak, which is cut from the “plate” of the cow. It is actually the diaphragm muscle of the cow. (Ew! I didn’t need to know that!) Skirt steak is one of the more flavorful cuts of beef, but it can be tough. It should be marinated prior to cooking in order to tenderize it.

Chimichurri is a sauce/marinade for churrasco that originated in Argentina. It is made with a combination of chopped fresh herbs, dried oregano, garlic, olive oil and some kind of acid. I have heard it referred to as Argentinian “barbecue sauce” and Argentinian “pesto”. I think that both are accurate descriptions. There are numerous different variations of chimichurri, but I like to use a combination of fresh parsley, cilantro and mint. I also like to add fresh lime juice for some bite.

I digress…….

With my skirt steak happily marinating in a green sea of chimichurri, I turned my attention to the grill. I had charcoal. I had propane. I had wood chips. I….. had…..absolutely no idea what I was doing! This was going to make it a little difficult to prove my point. Then, I got an idea! I would do what I always do when I want my husband, to do something he keeps putting off. I would start clanging things around, make a huge mess, heavily sigh (really loudly), curse a little and act like a martyr. And, that is exactly what I did.

I will spare you the details of the long, unpleasant dialogue that followed, but suffice it to say that we feasted on a well-grilled churrasco with chimichurri sauce that night! Who actually did the grilling, you ask? Well, who do you think? ; )

I served my churrasco with a black bean and corn salad that was cool and light and the perfect complement to the steak.

Churrasco with Chimichurri Sauce
Adapted from Steven Raichlen and Food and Wine Magazine
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
juice of 1 lime
1/3 cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and black pepper, freshly ground
2 pounds skirt steak
Place skirt steak into a baking dish.

Combine the herbs and garlic in a food processor and finely chop.
Add the oil, vinegar, water, hot pepper flakes and salt and pepper and process until a thick sauce forms. The chimichurri should be highly seasoned.
Pour 1/2 of the chimichurri sauce over the meat and smush it around until well-coated. Marinate the meat for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. Arrange the steak on the grate and grill until cooked to taste, about 2 minutes per side for medium-rare.
Transfer the churrasco steak to plates or a platter and serve the remaining chimichurri sauce on the side.
Black Bean and Corn Salad
Adapted from Apron’s Simple Meals
12-16 sprigs fresh cilantro
2 (15.25-ounce) cans black beans
1 (11-ounce) can Mexican-style corn
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup diced red onions
3/4 cup red wine vinaigrette
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Chop cilantro coarsely and place in medium bowl.
Rinse black beans and drain thoroughly and add to bowl.
Stir in remaining ingredients until well blended.
Cover and chill 15 minutes or more. Serve.