Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Sirloin Steak with Chimichurri

The perfect combination
Mmmm, steak.

For the meat lovers who read this post, I bet you won't be able to resist uttering (even mentally) something similar to 'I wish I had one of those'; and with my sincere apologies to the vegetarians and vegans, I admit that I cannot behold a well-cooked steak without salivating. It speaks to my inner carnivore like nothing else.

In 2009, I travelled around South America for four months. From gorging on coxinha's in Rio to nibbling guinea pig in Cusco, from gigantic pizzas in La Paz to coconut water in Cali, there is one food memory that stands out: carving into slabs of delicious Argentine steak.

The Argentinians tend to cook their steaks on outdoor grills known as parillas, which impart a smokey, char-grilled crust to the already flavoursome cuts of beef. The British weather being slightly more inclement, I tend to cook steaks in a cast-iron griddle pan, and you can still get a delicious brown crust with this method.

Adding some chimchurri sauce I am transported back to those small restaurants in Buenos Aires, Mendoza, and Salta. In Argentina, chimichurri is the condiment of choice for steak and as with anything in the cooking domain there are various recipes for it, but they all revolve around a few central ingredients: parsley, garlic, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Some add coriander, dried oregano, chilli and lime juice.

Chimichurri sauce

For the chimichurri:

Flat-leaf parsley, small bunch (80g packet from the supermarket)
Coriander, small bunch
3-5 garlic cloves, peeled
Red wine vinegar, 1 tbsp
Extra-virgin olive oil, 3 tbsp
Oregano (preferably Mexican), 1tsp
Crushed chillies, a pinch

-Blend all ingredients in a food processor

When it comes to cooking steak, my tips are culled from Heston Blumenthal and his idol, Harold McGee:
  • Take your steak from the fridge, remove any packaging and let come to room temperature for about half an hour (optionally, air-dry in the fridge for 2 days a la Blumenthal)
  • Put a cast-iron pan over a high heat for roughly 5 minutes or until smoking hot
  • Brush one side of the steak with oil then season with table salt (two decent pinches for a normal size sirloin should do it)
  • Lay the steak seasoned side down in the pan, season the other side then turn every 20 seconds or so, until each side had a nice, brown crust and the steak is cooked to your taste
  • The best way to check how the steak is cooked is with a temperature probe (but with a little practice simply pressing the meat will give you a good enough idea)
  • Once cooked, remove from the pan and rest for at least 5 minutes
Another simple method is to brown each side of a steak then put it in an oven at around 100 degrees celsius and check its doneness with a probe. This will tend to give a very evenly cooked piece of meat.

There are other tips and tricks, but if you follow these you can be guaranteed a tasty steak. For me the most salient points are getting the pan really hot, the resting period. and making sure you season the steak enough. It'll take more salt than you think.

With Aldi now doing Aberdeen Angus 28-day-matured sirloin and rib-eye steaks for just less than £4, it's now pretty affordable to eat a decent cut of meat every now and again. While I would always advocate sourcing meat from a reputable butcher, I think it's understandable to go occasionally for the cheaper albeit not so ethical option. I prefer a rib-eye for its flavourful marbling of fat which melts deliciously when cooked.

Wash this all down with a decent Argentine Malbec and dream of eating steaks the size of your head for less than the price of a Big Mac meal. No wonder they restrict how much of it gets across the channel!

Just how I like my steak