Argentina is famous for delicious meats that are slowly grilled over open fires on a parrilla (pronounced “pa-ree-ja”). From beef, to pork, lamb, chicken and sausages, the meats are roasted for many hours, resulting in succulent tender meat with crackling skin. Gauchos to chefs, the cooks all share the same two ingredients: patience and expertise from a life-long love of cooking outdoors.
This country of carnivores takes their meat very seriously and would never consider drenching it with A-1 Steak Sauce or a creamy French-style Béarnaise sauce after cooking it to perfection. Throughout Argentina, meats are always served with Chimichurri Sauce on the side. There are as many variations to Chimichurri as there are cooks in Argentina but they often contain olive oil and vinegar mixed with parsley, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper.
Quite unexpectedly, I learned that the name “chimichurri” comes from the Basque word “tximitxurri” – which means “a mixture of several things in no particular order” – a perfect description of this ubiquitous sauce. Many Basques settled in Argentina in the 19th century, bringing their old family recipes with them.
Recently eating our way through Argentina, my husband and I enjoyed a variety chimichurri sauces, from dehydrated blends available for purchase to many chefs’ “secret” recipes. If you search for Chimichurri sauce recipes online, chances are you will find recipes that result in a bright green sauce that looks like freshly made pesto. There are actually two different versions of chimichurri: a green “chimichurri verde” and a red “chimichurri rojo.”
With the dozens of sauces we tried, one stood out as the absolute best. We had literally travelled to the “end of the world” to Ushuaia, Argentina at the southernmost tip of South America. The chef at the La Cravia Restaurant Arakur Hotel was kind to share his recipe for chimichurri rojo with me. His “secret ingredient” to the amazingly complex flavor was incorporating rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, then using the same water to soak the dried herbs. His method took three days to prepare but the time was well worth the delicious burst of flavor! The sauce is delicious on grilled meats but is also wonderful on roasted vegetables or as a dipping sauce for crusty bread.
As with many family recipes, his listed ingredients and method with no fixed amounts. I’ve made several batches, and the recipe I’m sharing below seems to have the best proportions of ingredients but please feel free to adjust the recipe to your taste.
2 sun-dried tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ cup sunflower oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely minced
Put the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl. Pour in just enough boiling water to cover the tomatoes then set aside for one day. This should take about a cup or less of boiling water.
Remove the tomatoes from the water saving all the water. Finely mince the tomatoes and set them aside in a separate bowl.
Add the dried oregano and thyme to the reserved tomato water and stir to combine. Let the dried herbs soak for one day.
On the third day, add the sunflower oil, red wine vinegar, crushed red pepper and minced garlic to the dried herbs and water. Stir well to combine.
Stir in the rehydrated minced tomatoes and the fresh minced parsley, adding a little salt and pepper to taste.
You can adjust the flavor by adding a little more oil and vinegar. The sauce might be thicker if a lot of the water was absorbed into rehydrating the tomatoes or it might need more oil and vinegar if not much water was absorbed into plumping up the tomatoes. Adjust it to your taste, adding a bit more crushed red pepper if you want it spicier.