Friday, June 29, 2012

Skirt Steak with Chimichurri and Grilled Limes

I can't seem to tear myself away from the grill. It's not even July and it feels like this summer has lasted a lifetime.

I think I've fully recovered from my tooth extraction last week, so it's time to rejoin the world of masticators - what better way to do this then with an inexpensive beef off-cut like a skirt steak.

I have plenty of experience with flank steaks, but skirt steak was a bit of an enigma to me before this recipe. It is a gnarly looking cut of meat with a muscle texture that is reminiscent of an accordion; which is probably appropriate given it's main job is to contract the diaphragm. You can grab each end of this muscle and stretch it out: it expands like bellows. The flesh is honeycombed in structure with plenty of connective tissue and fat marbling throughout. The French revere this cut of meat and it is quite often the bistro choice for steak frites. It is interchangeably referred to as a bavette (which sometimes refers to the flank steak) or sometimes incorrectly, an onglet, (which is in truth, a hanger steak from another part of the animal). In all culinary technicality, there are actually two 'bavette' cuts. The piece of meat I grilled is officially known as a bavette d'aloyau. The entirely strange etymology aside, this is an excellent piece of meat. I got this cut from a proper butcher and did not wish to subject it to vinegary marinades or other such indignities. A fast and hot grill till medium rare with little more than olive oil, Maldon salt and coarsely ground black pepper would bring out the best it had to offer (and, oh did it ever offer a lot - one of the best beef experiences this summer by far).

That is not to say that I could not garnish this fine bovine masterpiece with some flourish. So, I grilled a few limes to pretty up the plate and made my version of an Argentinean chimichurri. The spicy and sour hit from the chimichurri was just what this bold bit of beef needed. My take on this classic beef condiment is a little richer than the traditional version; I emulsify olive oil into the mix, resulting in something more pesto-like. The original recipe is based largely on vinegar and is much more tart. I also add a bit of honey which is probably crazily unorthodox in both Argentina and by culinary standards in general. Nevertheless, the secret is to get enough honey in there that you don’t taste it. It’s presence is only there to balance other flavor profiles. Trust me, it works. 

Chimichurri à la my way

Juice and zest of one lime
1 clove of garlic
1 generous handful of fresh parsley
3 or 4 fresh basil leaves
A solid pinch of dried oregano
1 or 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
2 green finger chilies
2 jalapeno chilies
About 20 ml of good olive oil
A trickle of honey
Plenty of salt and pepper

Grill all the chilies on your barbecue or in a hot oven until they are blackened. Remove most of the blackened skins and cut off the stems of the chilies and let them cool a bit. Then get the chilies and all other ingredients except the olive oil into a food processor (sure, you can use a pestle and mortar, as I usually do, but hey, I need to take a day off sometimes). Whiz everything up until it starts to resemble a sticky (and fragrant) green paste. You may have to scrape the sides down a couple of times. Then turn on the whizzer and start drizzling in the olive oil at a very slow trickle. The oil will emulsify with the acids and you’ll end up with a creamy, pesto-like consistency. Once done, you may have to tinker with the salt, honey and lime juice to hit that perfect balance of hot, sour, sweet and olive-oily rich. Once your happy with it, slice your skirt steak against the grain (this is critical if you want a tender piece of meat) and dollop as much chimichurri as you care to eat all over the tender, pink meat.

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