Churrasco is a word with several different meanings. The way in which it is referred to depends on the region it is being associated with. In many Latin American and European countries, churrasco simply means any cut of beef that is grilled. In the Caribbean and in the states, churrasco refers to a specific cut of beef, the skirt steak. I was first introduced to churrasco while I was living in Miami, Florida. Excited and with a mouthful of drool, the meal I always ordered included a hefty piece of grilled skirt steak with a side of chimichurri, black beans and rice and maduros all for around $9.00. Yes, all of that food for only $9.00. This is when it registered that I was definitely not in New York anymore. After my first encounter with churrasco and chimichurri, I have been making my own version at home. Skirt steak has since become one of my favorite cuts of meat, as it is extremely juicy and holds flavors well.
Miami is not exactly the most intriguing city for food, but if they do anything right, it has to be Cuban cuisine. This is my version of Cuban churrasco and chimichurri sauce served with a side of tostones (twice-fried plantains).
For the skirt steak:
Freshly ground black pepper
For the chimichurri:
1/2 cup fresh oregano
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 lime, juiced
2-3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
Crushed red pepper flake
Freshly ground black pepper
For the tostones:
1 plantain (green peel); makes about 7 tostones
Garlic cloves, chopped and smashed
Chimichurri can be described as an Argentinian pesto. Start by putting all the ingredients for the chimichurri, except for the olive oil, in a food processor. Using the chop setting, coarsely chop the ingredients. You do not want to over-process the herbs. Remove the mixture from the food processor. In a separate bowl, whisk the olive oil into the herb mixture. If you don’t mix the olive oil separately, the chimichurri will turn into an unappetizing mess.
Skirt steak comes in a long, narrow piece. Cut the skirt steak into smaller pieces. This will make it easier to arrange on the grill. Place the pieces of steak into a zip bag and pour in 1/4 of the chimichurri sauce. This will act as a marinade. Reserve the rest of the sauce to pour over the steaks after they are cooked. After at least 30 minutes of marinating the steaks, remove them from the bag and pat them dry. Get your grill really hot before putting the steaks on. Once the steaks are on the grill, they only take 2-3 minutes on each side if you want them rare. If you don’t want them rare, then go eat a flip-flop. Only kidding. Remove the steaks and tent them with foil. Allow them to rest about 10 minutes before serving.
Heat about two inches of vegetable oil in a pot. Peel the plantain and slice it into 1 inch pieces. Fry the pieces for a few minutes until they are slightly golden. Remove the pieces from the oil. With a flattened wooden spoon, or any flat surface, smash the plantain chunks until they are flat.
This is why it is important to cook the plantains enough the first round of frying; otherwise, they will not flatten smoothly. I usually use a wooden spoon like the one pictured, but I have also used the bottom of a coffee mug. Really any flat surface will work. There is a special contraption just for making tostones but I think this is altogether a waste of space. After flattening the plantains, place them back into the hot oil. This is why they are twice-fried. The second frying will crisp the outside. It is the same technique that is used when making homemade french fries. First fry them at a lower temperature to ensure the potatoes are fully cooked on the inside, then fry them for a second time at a higher temperature to get the crisp golden-brown outside we all adore. Salt the tostones when they come out of the hot oil. Even though they are great by themselves, I like to make something to dip the tostones in. It is super simple and delicious. Chop a couple of garlic cloves and put them in a small bowl. Fill the bowl with a little bit of water, just to cover the garlic, and a drizzle of olive oil. Add salt to the water and whisk until it is completely dissolved. It doesn’t sound like much of anything. Really, water with garlic? I know, but it has a lot of flavor.
This meal is seriously one of the simplest things I have ever made. It is so quick and requires very little ingredients. I highly suggest you try it some time. It is a great alternative if you feel like switching up your dull meat and potato routine.
* FACT: The plate that the food is photographed on is my great-grandmother’s. Basically, it’s a really old plate.
Xristina ♥ Marie
for The Refined Palate
© 2011 Xristina Marie