Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tasty and versatile chimichurri

Basic Chimichurri 

Chimichurri is a South American traditional marinade and/or dipping sauce typically used to baste grilled meats but fantastic as well when used as a baste for roasted vegetables or a dip for tortilla chips. The name appears to be an indiginent's mispronunciation of a British person's name, possibly Jimmy McCurry, Jimmy Curry, or James C. Hurray, or of an English speaker in Patagonia overheard to say "give me the curry". I like the Jimmy McCurry version; he was a cook marching in one of the many armies involved with establishing Argentinian Independence.  He made a sauce like this for all grilled meats he prepared. It now turns up everywhere, from roadside barbecue stalls to pricey steak palaces, as far north as Nicaragua, as far south as Chile, and in just about every Spanish-speaking country in between. No two chimichurri recipes are exactly alike, although a basic recipe contains just four ingredients: parsley, garlic, olive oil, and salt. You may find a similar preparation containing cilantro mistakenly labeled chimichurri, but that is actually a similar sauce from Chile called pebre.   This recipe is modified from one from Marono Fraga, owner of the Estancia del Puerto in Montevideo’s colorful Mercado del Puerto (Port Market).  I used it to coat our Easter 2008 boneless leg of lamb and it came out fantastic!

Ingredients (Makes about 2 cups)

   1 bunch fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, stemmed
   Peeled cloves from 1 head garlic or more (8 to 10 cloves in all)
   1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
   1 small onion, minced
   1 cup extra virgin olive oil
   1/3 cup vinegar (wine, distilled or balsamic) or more to taste
   1/4 cup water
   1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
   1 teaspoon oregano, dried
   1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, hot, or more to taste
   1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1. Combine the parsley and garlic in a food processor and pulse to chop as fine as possible.

2. Add the carrot, onion, oil, vinegar, water,  salt, oregano, hot pepper flakes, and  black pepper. Process to mix. Taste for seasoning, adding vinegar, salt, or pepper flakes as necessary; the sauce should be highly seasoned.

This chimichurri will keep for several days in the refrigerator (you may need to re-season it just before serving), but it tastes best served within a few hours of preparation.  For longer storage, freeze it in an ice-cube tray but be prepared to blend it again after is thaws out.

Chimichurri Variations: Some cooks leave onion out of their chimichurris, while others add 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper or fresh hot chilies. I have no aversion to including all three!

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