In Argentina, where beef is king, chimichurri (chi-mee-CHOOR-ee) is the crown. When the Spanish arrived, they found rolling, untilled plains and quickly came back with cattle. Their efforts were rewarded. Historically, Argentina has towered over the world in beef consumption — peaking at nearly 400 pounds per capita in the 19th century — and chimichurri has served as the ubiquitous condiment, as common in Argentina as ketchup is in the United States.
Chimichurri is a fresh, herb-rich condiment made with lots of finely chopped parsley, cilantro, olive oil, garlic, vinegar and oregano. It’s a standard fixture at the traditional asado (barbeque), a meat-fest that includes a parade of beef, goat, suckling pig and more, sometimes reproduced by gaucho-clad waiters at theme restaurants in the States.
The legends behind the name hinge on botched linguistics. One claims the sauce was developed by an Irishman, Jimmy McCurry, a friend of the movement for Argentine Independence. Natives loved his sauce but couldn’t pronounce the name. Another legend involves an English couple in a restaurant saying, “give me the curry.” Presumably, they didn’t get curry.
Aside from saucing steak, chimichurri makes a tasty marinade and can be used as a basting sauce. It’s quickly accomplished in a food processor. It keeps for a couple of days in the fridge, but tastes best when freshly made. Try using it as a marinade for grilled chicken or serve it as a dipping sauce for shrimp.
—By Jo Marshall, a food writer in Deephaven, Minn.