Churrasco, loosely translated as “grilled meat,” is a staple of most Latin American and South American countries. It is often served with chimichurri sauce, a tangy and slightly spicy condiment that I have been trying for years to recreate at home. I have tried dozens of different recipes, but none were just right. I had to modify each one to get the flavors I was seeking, but since I never wrote down what I’d changed, I could never make it the same way twice. This past summer I finally found a tried and true recipe that I only slightly modified. This time I actually wrote down what I changed, so now I can rely on this recipe to turn out amazing. Every single time.
Grilled Churrasco Beef with Chimichurri Sauce
3 pounds flank steak
One recipe of marinade (below)
One recipe of chimichurri (below)
Large handful fresh parsley, chopped (about ¼ cup chopped)
Large handful fresh cilantro, chopped (about ¼ cup chopped)
1 clove garlic, minced (½ teaspoon minced)
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, and chopped
¼ teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped (1 or 2 four-inch sprigs)
¼ teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped (8 to 10 leaves)
½ teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped (3 to 6 leaves)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup canola oil
One small lime, juiced (about 1 tablespoon of juice)
2 tablespoons fresh oregano (2-3 sprigs)
2 bunches Italian (flat leaf) parsley (1 cup leaves, packed)
1 cup fresh cilantro, packed
6 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 cup water
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
2 t paprika
½ t ground cumin
1 t freshly ground black pepper
½ cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Marinate the steak: Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl or resealable plastic bag large enough to hold the steak. Coat the steak with the marinade and place in the refrigerator for several hours, or even overnight.
Make the chimichurri: in a full-sized food processor, place the oregano, parsley, cilantro, garlic, salt, water and olive oil. Pulse for about 20 seconds to blend. Add the remaining spices and white vinegar and pulse again to blend. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the red wine vinegar. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
Remove the steak from the refrigerator 30-60 minutes before cooking to allow it to come closer to room temperature. Preheat grill to medium-high heat (400 degrees or so), and grill the steak to desired doneness. (For medium rare, grill each side of the steak for 3-4 minutes.) Tent the grilled steak with foil and let it rest 10 minutes.
To serve, slice the steak thinly across the grain, top with chimichurri and serve with white rice and black beans.
Step by Step Details
This recipe for the marinade and chimichurri makes enough for 3 pounds of flank steak. However, if you are thinking of scaling back the recipe to use less steak than that (here I used just an 8 ounce steak), go ahead and make the full recipe anyway and freeze any leftover marinade and chimichurri for next time. Because once you try this, you know there will be a next time. And another time after that. And so on.
Make the marinade first, allowing enough time for the steak to marinate for several hours or even overnight. (Note: in a pinch, you can marinate the steak in the chimichurri instead, but only do that if you’re pressed for time or ingredients. Using the marinade really does taste better.)
Place the steak in a bowl or resealable plastic bag large enough to hold the steak. (If using less than 3 pounds of steak, use just enough marinade to coat it well and set aside the rest). Coat the steak well and keep refrigerated while it marinates.
Make the chimichurri next. Before you start, be sure to use a large enough food processor to allow ample head room. I thought I could get by with my tiny one to save on clean-up. I packed it tightly and added the liquids last, but when I turned it on water and oil shot out all over the place. So much for saving time and clean-up…
Place the oregano, parsley, cilantro (if using), garlic, salt, water and olive oil in a food processor or blender. Pulse for about 20 seconds to blend into a smooth, light green mixture.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the red wine vinegar. The sauce will still look green, but with the right lighting (or camera flash), it may appear slightly orange. Don’t worry about the color. It’s still going to taste amazing.Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
Remove the steak from the refrigerator about 30-60 minutes before cooking to allow it to come close to room temperature. The “warmer” the steak, the more quickly and evenly it will cook.
Preheat grill to medium-high heat (400 degrees or so), scrape off as much marinade as you can, and grill the steak to desired doneness. (For medium rare, grill each side of the steak for 3-4 minutes.)
Cover the grilled steak with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes. During this rest period, the meat’s juices will redistribute and make for a juicier steak. Cutting into it right away allows all those juices to escape, resulting in a drier steak. I know you’re hungry and that it’s hard to resist, but wait those 10 minutes. Trust me.
After resting, slice thinly across the grain. Slicing along the grain makes for a tougher, chewier steak, while slicing across the grain leaves it more tender. There’s a scientific/physiological reason for that, but I won’t get into that now. I know you’re hungry. I won’t keep you waiting.
Top the sliced steak with chimichurri and serve with white rice and black beans. This meal pairs especially well with red wines like Argentinian Malbec or Spanish Rioja or Garnacha. Enjoy!