Think of chimichurri as the “South American Pesto” if you like, using parsley as the base rather than basil. It’s not as sweet as pesto, and the addition of red pepper flakes and a little jolt of red wine vinegar gives it a delicious “bite”. Chimichurri (at least the way I make it) is NOT hot. It is however, very flavorful and not a condiment content to sit in the background of food. I have come to believe that flank steak and London Broil (both beef cuts that absolutely NEED a marinade) cannot exist without this stuff. It is wonderful on beef, great on pork, may be the best friend of your boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, and as long as you’re not laying it on too thick, even works on seafood like shrimp, and scallops. I admit that I am not much of a fish eater, so I haven’t tried it on fish, and I refuse to season my crab with anything other than Old Bay, lemon, and beer, but that’s a blog post for another day.
Chimichurri started out in Argentina. If you’ve ever been to one of those Argentinian Steakhouses, (Think Fogo de Chao) then you’ve probably tasted meat using chimichurri as the marinade. If you’re jonesing for some and you don’t have the ingredients handy, the Latin food label Goya sells a jarred version. However it’s so danged easy to make, just whip up some of your own!
Start with a bunch of parsley, I use the Italian flat-leaf kind, but in a pinch ANY kind will do. You’re going to want to end up with about a cup of the leaves. Grab cilantro too, you’ll want about 1/4 to 1/2 the amount of cilantro to parsley. If your grocery is out of parsley or out of cilantro, you can also make this with just ONE of the herbs. Completely your choice. You’ll also need some fresh oregano. I have a boatload of it growing in my herb garden. I grab whichever kind (the Italian or Greek) is most ready to overtake it’s garden area. Again, about 1/4 cup of leaves is what you need.
You’ll also need 6-8 cloves of garlic, and a little bit of diced onion (red if you’ve got it!) – about 1-2 Tablespoons will do the trick. A pinch of red pepper flakes, some olive oil, red wine vinegar (about a quarter of a cup), some kosher salt, and the juice of a lime (optional).
Throw the garlic and the onion in the food processor and pulse until both are finely chopped. Then add the herbs, and again pulse until they are chopped a bit. Add a healthy pinch of red pepper (more if you want it hot, less if not), a healthy pinch of kosher salt, the red wine vinegar and pulse again. At this point, your herbs should be finely chopped, but not pounded into a puree. Now, pulsing gently, drizzle in the olive oil (about 3/4 of a cup) until it is all mixed in. Transfer the mixture to a bowl (get EVERY LAST BIT) and taste for seasonings. You can adjust here, adding more salt or red pepper if you want. If desired, squeeze in the juice of a lime. Stir, cover, and store in the fridge. It just gets better the longer it sits.
Now, I will use half as a marinade, and half as a sauce for whatever I’m grilling. The lime juice helps really bring the brightness of the herbs to the front, and the vinegar/red pepper cuts through the olive oil with enough bite to really wake up your taste buds. Try it with steak, or chicken, I’ve even had it slathered on potatoes, zucchini, and sweet corn that I have grilled. The recipe is quite flexible, if you like more oregano, add it, if you want less garlic (WHAT?) you can leave it out. Adjust to what makes your tongue go “Oh yeah… THAT’S the ticket!” It’s SO good, you may just end up having your own affair with this incredibly versatile condiment.
Just don’t say I didn’t warn you!