Bring on the chimichurri.
We never considered grilling swords of monster kabobs of unidentifiable meat cuts until R.B. spotted those churrascaria ads in an airline magazine a few years ago. Like any guy with an eye for big cuts of meat and an expense account (remember that perk?), the ads grabbed R.B. hook, line, and sinker. And those kabobs look especially good when you’re strapped in a chair at 35,000 feet with a tiny bag of peanuts.
Nashville has dabbled in the that themed restaurant concept a time or two. The churrasco (shoo-RAS-koo) is carved table side by an endless parade of costumed gauchos. It may still be a conventioneers’ hot spot, who can say. After recovering from the prix fixe sticker shock on our first trip we made a conscious effort not to fill up on the distracting salad “barge” that rivaled any cruise ship lido deck buffet. Then, after the fourth or fifth visit to the table by the generous chicken kebob guy we finally wised up and demanded to see the steak gaucho, the Texas beef rib gaucho, any other gaucho.
The best thing we took home from that experience was the idea for chimichurri, the spicy mix of fresh cilantro and parsley, onions, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil. It’s a breeze to whip up in a food processor and is a dynamite condiment to go with most any grilled red meat, chicken, pork, or fish. Late in the summer we could all benefit from a little Brazilian punch to sauce up the standard “simply grilled meats” portion of the backyard dinner.
R.B. doesn’t have his childhood sword collection anymore, just a kitchen drawer full of mismatched skewers and chopsticks. But, over-sized spits, high-water bell bottoms and pirate shirts aren’t really what make churrasco. Instead, a good sirloin, pork tenderloin, or piece of swordfish with a little salt and a good sear becomes Cheater Chef Brazilian with a side of traditional chimichurri, black beans, rice, and some kind of salad with hearts of palm thrown in.
For a real Carnivale atmosphere, start with a round of pre-dinner caipirinhas, the potent Brazilian cocktail of muddled lime, sugar, and cachaca distilled from sugar cane. For a weekend brunch stir a couple spoonfuls of chimichurri into scrambled eggs and serve with grilled steak. While Tennessee tomatoes are at their peak, don’t forget to spoon a little of that same chimichurri over thick tomato slices.
- 1 medium bunch cilantro, washed and dried, thick stems removed
- 1 medium bunch fresh parsley, washed and dried, thick stems removed
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small sweet onion
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- Salt, black pepper, to taste
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Or, finely chop cilantro, parsley, onion and garlic with a knife. Combine with remaining ingredients. Seasons with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Makes about 1 ½ cups. Serve with grilled meats, poultry, or fish. Substitute fresh oregano, marjoram and/or more parsley for the cilantro.