Like pesto or mashed potatoes, every cook has a special trick up her sleeve or specificity to her palate that makes a creation especially her own. My gastronomical pilgrimage has lead me to construct an altar around the capabilities of both buttermilk and umeboshi vinegar and a tolerance (and then unbound joy) for combinations such as a kim chi and tahini toasted sandwich. For some reason though, I never bothered to give chimichurri a try, which, if in a darker mood, would indicate that I've wasted thirty one years of my life.
Known as the condiment for the famous Argentinian barbecue, chimichurri is my ambassador for South America. At its most basic, it is an aromatic vinegar-based sauce, mellowed by olive oil. A blackened jalapeno adds fire while the muddled pungent herbs eddy about, giving strong reason to clasp one's hands together with a sense of awe. There's no wrong pairing with it; traditionally used as a tabletop condiment or to baste grilling beef, it is a revelation folded into aioli or hot roasted potatoes, spooned over grilled asparagus or into a bowl of steaming rice.
adapted from Judy Rogers
To get the full effect, make sure that whatever food you're dressing with the chimichurri has already been salted adequately, especially meat or potatoes. The sauce will keep in the fridge for a week, although it likely won't last so long.
1 jalapeno pepper
2 t fresh oregano
2 t fresh thyme
1 t fresh rosemary
1 c extra-virgin olive oil
3 T red wine vinegar
1 T sweet paprika
1 T fresh flat-leaf- parsley, minced
3 large cloves of freshly garlic, minced
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/2 to 3/4 t sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper
Char the jalapeno over an open flame on your stove or on the grill. Use tongs or an appropriate kitchen tool to rotate the pepper so that all sides are blackened -- a minute or so. Leave it to cool and then remove all seeds and the stem and mince the blackened flesh.
Roughly chop the oregano, thyme and rosemary to release the oils and provide surface area. This can also be accomplished with a mortar and pestle, if you've got them.
In a small sauce pan, warm the olive oil over medium low heat until it is hot but not smoking. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the bruised herbs and remaining ingredients, including the minced jalapeno.
Let sit for at least an hour before serving. You have the option of blending the chimichurri in a food processor or with an immersion blender if you prefer a less rustic sauce -- sometimes the larger pieces of bay leaf can be a bit much.
Yields: 1 cup chimichurri
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: hardly anything (but allow the sauce to rest an hour before serving)
Photography by Amy Pennington | Writing and styling by Adria Lee