For people who enjoy cooking or eating, the Fourth of July is as much a holiday related to grilling as it is to fireworks.
Whether you’re throwing down on grilled beef, chicken, fish or tofu this weekend, one sauce you should serve your guests is chimichurri. It’s easy to make and will earn you some culinary cred.
Chimichurri is a parsley-based sauce originating out of Argentina. There it accompanies grilled meats, chorizo and empanadas. There are countless ways to make chimichurri – ranging from a fresh-herbed bright green sauce (like my version below) to one that is red hued and calls for dried herbs and cooking.
Regardless, essentials for this sauce include parsley, oregano, vinegar, and olive oil. From there, it’s cook’s choice.
To impress your guests further, here are some food history facts:
The origin of chimichurri is a bit sketchy. Credit is given to los gauchos, the cowboys of Argentina’s pampas plains area, famously known for grilling meats and sausages over an open wood fire. Their marinade and salsa of choice was chimichurri, which was likely made of dried parsley and oregano.
Some food etymology also points to non-Argentines as the source: an Englishman Jimmy Curry, a meat importer who traveled with gauchos in the mid 1800s and an Irishman Jimmy McCurry, who marched with troops for Argentina’s independence in the 19th century. Under either, the locals had difficulty pronouncing their last names and “chimichurri” resulted.
Others, like Argentinean gourmet Miguel Brasco, say the name dates back to when England tried to invade the Spanish colony of Argentina. Allegedly, British prisoners asked for condiment for their food, mixing English, Aboriginal, and Castilian Spanish words – “che-mi-curry” in English meaning “give me curry,” later changed to chimichurri. Another recent theory to surface is by barbecue expert Steven Raichlen, who links it to the Basque word “tximitxurri.” The Basque settled in Argentina in the late 19th and 20th centuries.
Despite the intellectual exercise above, know that this sauce will be a hit.
Chimichurri, especially this fresh-herbed version, is perfect for your grilled food. The fresh herbs, vinegar and lemon juice balance the grease in grilled meat. You can also use it as a salad dressing, marinade, or as my husband enjoys – on corn on the cob.
Let me know how you use chimichurri.
Tidbits on Parsley
- Use parsley within a few days of picking or purchasing – before the leaves begin to shrivel or turn a yellowish hue. After washing thoroughly, store in a glass in the refrigerator. If you want to freeze it for later use, dry thoroughly, chop and freeze.
- Parsley is poisonous to most birds but of high nutritional value to humans – rich in vitamin C (three times as much as oranges); it has compounds that clear toxins from the body, which reduce inflammation; it also contains histamine; and contains a compound within called apiol that is valuable for treating kidney ailments.
Sources: Hints & Pinches by Eugene Walter; Encyclopedia of Spices at theepicentre.com
Chimichurri – Fresh Sauce
Makes about 1 ¼ cup sauce
For a chunkier sauce, finely chop by hand. For a quick version, chop ingredients roughly before adding to a food processor (a mini-processor is ideal size). For a smoother sauce, use a blender.
Ingredient ranges: I’ve provided some recommended ranges for a few of the ingredients below. This sauce can easily be adapted to one’s taste – more garlic for garlic fiends, more chile for those who like it hot, etc. Start with the minimum and adjust incrementally.
1 1/2 cups fresh flat leaf parsley, measured chopped (about 1 large bunch)
3 – 5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 – 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or seasoned white rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 to 1 tablespoon oregano, less if dried more if fresh
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons onion, chopped finely
Red bell pepper, finely chopped, optional
If making by hand, finely chop all ingredients. Otherwise, add all ingredients to the food processor or blender except for the olive oil, onions and red pepper. Pulse until mixed well. Add oil, then pulse again. Add finely chopped onion and red bell pepper. Adjust seasoning. Serve room temperature after letting flavors meld for at least one hour.