I'm just going to say it. I'm not pleased that Hung won. His arrogance always felt to me like a hollow, premeditated strategy, rather than a true reflection of who he is. Throughout the season I've found his food to be lacking in any sort of personal style and not very inspired. In fact, some of it was oddly dated. I will never get past those cucumber rounds topped with salmon mousse that he served on the cocktail party on the boat. Annie's disappointment was a little more emphatic than my own. "I'm finished with this show!" she screamed at the television as Padma announced the winner. "That's it! I'M DONE!" The evening ended on an embittered note, although it was sort of in keeping with what had been up until that point a somewhat tedious evening filled with a succession of mishaps. First, on his way to Annie and Pierson's new house, Mark got lost and wound up at the airport. While I was grilling the steaks, the gas tank on their barbeque ran out (fortunately they had a spare). Then while Annie was running the garbage disposal she came to the sinking realization that the end of a pipe had accidentally been blown off and garbage disposal water was shooting out into the driveway. As we watched the show, Pierson crawled around under the house trying to figure out what the problem was, cursing the fact that they no longer had a landlord.
At least the food was good. The meal consisted of grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, horseraddish mashed potatoes, green beans sauteed with garlic, lemon juice and zest and then tossed with chopped parsley. Dessert consisted of vanilla sugar roasted peaches with vanilla ice cream and crushed ginger snaps. For those who don't know, chimichurri is sort of like Argentina's answer to Morocco's charmoula or Italy, Spain, and Mexico's versions of salsa verde which is to say, a sauce made primarily of finely chopped or pureed herbs and olive oil. Traditionally chimichurri is served with grilled meats and includes parsley, oregano, paprika, garlic and red pepper flakes. I like this version, which comes from the July 2006 issue of Bon Appetit, because it also incorporates cilantro and mint.
(For the chimichurri sauce)
3/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar or red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 medium shallots, peeled, quartered
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
3 cups (packed) stemmed fresh parsley
2 cups (packed) stemmed fresh cilantro
1 cup (packed) stemmed fresh mint
(For the skirt steak)
2 pounds skirt steak, trimmed of excess fat
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons or so, extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 chiles de arbol, crushed or finely chopped
Place the skirt steak in a shallow casserole dish and season on both sides with the salt, pepper, minced garlic, oregano and chiles de arbol. Drizzle with the olive oil, cover the dish with cling film and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Next make the chimichurri sauce. Combine first the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and zest, garlic, shallots, salt, pepper, and red pepper falkes in blender; blend until almost smooth. Add 1/2 of the parsley, 1/2 of the cilantro, and 1/2 of the mint; blend until incorporated.
Pour the mixture into a medium bowl and set aside. Meanwhile, very finely chop the remaining parsley, cilantro and mint and then add it to the pureed mixture. Stir to combine.
30 minutes or so before grilling, remove the skirt steak from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Pour a little olive oil onto a paper towel that has been folded over into a thick, small small square and wipe the ridges of a grill pan and then place the pan over high heat for 5 minutes. Place the skirt steak in the grill pan and cook for about two minutes on the first side. With a pair of tongs, flip the skirt steak and grill for another minute or two, for medium. Place the cooked skirt steak on a cutting board and let rest for ten minutes before slicing. Meanwhile, continue cooking the rest of the steak.
Cut the steak against the grain, at an angle into very thin slices. Serve with the chimichurri sauce.
Often when I've had it in restaurants, chimichurri is tends to be a greasy slick of olive oil in which chopped parsley and other herbs are suspended. Not that there is anything wrong with a bowl of chopped herbs floating around in olive oil. However this verdant chimichurri has a thick, almost creamy consistency (thanks to the emulsification power of the blender) it's richness balanced out by a herbaceous and tangy flavor. The sauce is bright but with a spicy piquancy from the crushed red pepper and a pungent bite from the garlic. It's great for anyone who is under the impression that they don't like cilantro, as the mint tames what many people consider to be the soapy flavor.
Since I had some sauce left over, I served it again a few nights later, with more grilled skirt steak, more horseradish mashed potatoes, and big pile of sticky, sweet roasted red onions.
As perfect as the sauce is spooned onto thin slices of grilled skirt steak, it would be equally fabulous with chicken, pork, fish and other seafood. I can imagine the sauce mixed with several heaping spoonfuls of mayonnaise and then slathered onto a sandwich. In fact I can imagine it on pretty much anything with the exception of cereal.
Yields about 2 cups of sauce
2 pounds of skirt steak serves 4 people