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Churrasco and Chesapeake Chimichuri

July 14, 2015 - Radio Kitchen - Churrasco and Chesapeake Chimichuri

One of the things that I like most about Maryland-grown food is the number of different culinary traditions it supports.  Inspired by a recent trip to Puerto Rico, I went shopping for the ingredients for a well-known Latino specialty, Churrasco.  And Chef Jerry Pellegrino was the beneficiary of my cooking.

First, a description:  Churrasco is a flash grilled skirt steak served with a chimichurri sauce.  It is enormously popular in Latin America, and appeals to visitors with robust appetites.

Skirt steak is one of the old "remnant cuts," something most of us never paid much attention to.  But in Latin America it's very popular, and is the preferred meat for fajitas.  Essentially the skirt steak is cut from a muscle of the cow that runs like a belt around its abdomen.  It's a long, narrow and thin piece of meat, covered with a lot of fat and a slivery membrane. 

Step one is to cut the steak into two manageable pieces, each about 15" long.  If your butcher hasn't trimmed it up for you, use a very sharp knife to cut away the bigger pieces of fat, then use the edge to scrap the residual fat off as best you can. 

The membrane can be a little hard to spot.  It coats the muscle and is very thin.  If left on, it shrinks and pulls up the steak.  Just pinch it up with your fingers, and slice it away as best you can.   I peel back as much as I can, then very lightly score the meat in a cross hatch to break it up.

The next step is to tenderize the steaks by pounding them with a wooden roller.  Try to get them as thin as possible, working both sides.  When satisfied, salt and pepper the steaks generously.  You want a steak about 3/8" thick.

The next step is to get your mojo working.  Mojo is the name used for a marinade.  Here's one that we've used, and it is easy to prepare in advance.

                               
                    Mojo Marinade

1 tbs minced garlic
2 tbs fleur de sel salt
1 tbs ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, cut up
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lime juice
1 cup olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano

1.  Combine ingredients in a food processor and lightly pulse until the solids are well reduced.  

To continue, lay the two pieces of trimmed skirt steak side by side in a pyrex baking dish large enough to hold them.  Pour the marinade over the steaks, cover the dish with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

In the meantime, you want to make your chimichuri sauce.  This is a parsley and garlic concoction that goes very well with grilled meat.  Here is an original recipe that features Maryland produce.

                    Chesapeake Chimichuri

1 large bunch parsley leaves, chopped
the leaves of 6 sprigs of mint
1 tbs minced garlic
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
1/4 cup finely diced sweet red pepper
1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
1 finely diced jalapeno pepper
1 small tomato, skinned, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup cider vinegar
the juice of two limes
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Process all the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor until a thick paste is formed.  Empty the paste into a bowl and stir in the olive oil.  Do not process the olive oil!  Sprinkle the salt and pepper into the sauce and mix.  Adjust the acidity with more vinegar.

2.  Refrigerate overnight.

When the time comes, fire up your grill and let it get red hot.  Place the steaks on the grill, still dripping with marinade.  You only need to cook them one minute per side.  At about 3/8 " thick, they don't need more than that.

Serve immediately, and put your best fleur de sel salt on the table along with your best peppercorns and grinder.  Season enthusiastically, and cover with the chimichuri sauce.  Whip up some dirty rice and some sautéed squash and you have a fabulous meal.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.