Several years ago, I spent an entire month in Argentina and I do not recall ever seeing chimichurri sauce on the table.
How could this have been possible? Was I blind? How could I have traveled from the grassy Pampas to the Bolivian border without once encountering this iconic sauce?
I have no idea.
Since that trip, I have yet to see a something about Argentinian steak-eating that doesn’t make reference to chimichurri — that fabulous amalgam of parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, vinegar, and olive oil — as being the ever-present condiment. However, I can honestly and sadly say that I never had it until I returned home.
It’s not like I wasn’t eating meat over there. After a leisurely breakfast of sweet, flaky medialunas and large cafe con leche, I would wander out into the street and try to figure out where to have my next meal — which would always be steak.
Yes, this was the decadent month where I had steak for lunch and dinner every single day, washed down with gallons of highly-alcoholic Malbec. Did I get sick of the repetitiveness? No. Did I eat anything else? Yes. Empanadas (both the meat and the cheese-filled varieties) and dulce de leche-stuffed alfajores filled in the nooks and crannies in-between meals.
Was it healthy? Most definitely not! By the time that me and my travel companion ended our trip, our alcohol tolerance was through the roof and we could document how much we had swelled in pictures. Looking at them chronologically was like seeing time-lapse photographic evidence of weight-gain.
Was it one of the most delicious vacations of my life? Most definitely yes.
Perhaps if I had seen either a bottle or a bowl of chimichurri sauce, I would have foregone the pathetic green salads that we would order in an effort to ingest something healthy. Who were we kidding? Those little bowls of greens were only gestures, mere tokens of the balanced diets we left behind in favor of steak, steak, more steak, and llama carpaccio.
Chimichurri is an excellent accompaniment for grilled and roasted meats. It’s green, garlicky, and salty with a little heat from the pepper and a little tang from the vinegar. It is amazing and beyond easy to make.
This version of chimichurri is a twist on traditional chimichurri. Instead of oregano, I have substituted fresh mint leaves to complement the lovely lamb chops that I get from my CSA. My introduction to the combination of lamb and mint — the mind naturally conjures up images of adorably delectable baby lambs fattening themselves on tender sprigs of mint and other herbs as if to say, “Here I am and I am pre-seasoned!” — came when I was spending a lot of time in Wales. A slick of mint sauce, usually store-bought and straight from a jar, was used to coat salty little marsh lamb chops in a sheen of jelly. Looking back, those chops would have been much better served by something fresher and more spring-like.
In lieu of red or white wine vinegar, I have opted for unfiltered apple cider vinegar which adds a little bit of sweetness to the final result. I actually got the idea to swap vinegars from the wonderful Hannah over at Inherit the Spoon, whose recipe inspired this one. As you can tell, chimichurri is quite flexible; you can adjust it to your personal tastes as you go along. What is given below is a reflection of what I like to eat, namely more salt and less tart, but you should feel free to play around with it. If the sauce feels too chunky, add more olive oil or more vinegar. Too tangy? Too garlicky? Too spicy? Add more herbs.
As a useful gauge, the final consistency should be like fine pesto. That being said, you can leave the sauce rougher if you prefer. It will still taste wonderful.
2 thick-cut lamb rib chops per person
Rice bran oil
1/2 a bunch of Italian parsley, trimmed so that the longer stems are removed
1 handful of fresh mint leaves, stems removed
2 cloves of garlic
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3-4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1-3-1/2 of a cup of good extra-virgin olive oil
How to prepare:
1. Generously salt both sides of the lamb chops and let them come up to room temperature while you prepare the sauce.
2. Combine the herbs, the garlic, the red pepper flakes, and the apple cider vinegar in a food processor with a hefty pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper. As the processor is going, add the olive oil in a steady stream until you reach your desired consistency. Adjust the seasoning if needed. Keep the sauce covered in the fridge until you are ready to cook the chops.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°.
4. Once the lamb chops have come up to room temperature, pat them dry with paper towels. In a heavy-duty, oven-safe skillet large enough to hold the chops without crowding them, heat about 1-2 tablespoons of rice bran oil or another kind of oil with a high-smoke point until the surface of the oil begins to shimmer. Arrange the chops in a single layer and let them cook undisturbed until you have a nice sear on them. When properly seared, the chops should release easily from the pan if the pan was hot enough to begin with. Flip the chops and move the pan to the oven. You want to aim for them to be medium-rare. An instant read thermometer should read 135° when inserted in the thickest part of the chop. This should take about 7-10 minutes depending on how thick your chops are (mine were about 1.5 inches thick) and how many are in the pan. When the chops have reached the appropriate level of doneness, remove the pan from the oven and transfer the chops to a plate to rest for 5 minutes.
5. When the meat is done resting, serve them along with the chimichurri. Any uneaten sauce can be kept in an air-tight container in the fridge for about a week. There will likely not be any uneaten sauce 🙂