Red chimichurri, the other version of Argentina’s famous sauce, makes whatever it touches better

  • Griddle-seared steak is served with a smoky red chimichurri sauce, right, and roasted potatoes that are also hit with the sauce. (Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
  • Chunks of beef alternate with bell peppers and baby bella mushrooms for kebabs coated with a spicy red chimichurri sauce. (Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Friends sometimes apologize to me for being strictly meat and potatoes lovers. No problem. I enjoy cooking both. Offering a flavorful finishing sauce proves key to pleasing everyone. I turn to the brilliance of Argentina’s meat and robust condiment culture for inspiration.

Argentina’s love of beef shows up in its traditional mixed grill feasts at parrillas (grill restaurants), in matambre arrollada, a stuffed beef roll, and minced fine in some of the best empanadas I’ve ever tasted.

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All of the above are so much the better when doused with chimichurri, Argentina’s go-to condiment. The uncooked sauce of herbs, garlic, olive oil and seasonings is this South American country’s answer to Mexico’s salsa.

In Argentina, chimichurri comes in green and red. In the U.S., green chimichurri, made with lots of fresh parsley, appears on menus more often than red as both marinade and finishing sauce.

You’ll find yourself spooning red chimichurri generously over roasted vegetables, fluffy omelets and all manner of fish. I like it smeared over grilled bread before adding a smear of avocado or spoonfuls of sauteed mushrooms for an interesting toast. Brown some ground beef or turkey, and stir in the red chimichurri to tuck into a taco or top a baked potato.

Griddle-Seared Steak with Smoky Red Chimichurri Sauce

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 5 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

Ask the butcher to trim the steak of all silver skin, so it cooks up beautifully tender.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon each: cracked black pepper, ground cumin, salt

1/4 teaspoon ground red chile, such as New Mexico chile, or cayenne if you like it hot

1 1/2 pounds trimmed beef skirt steak or hangar steak

Smoky red chimichurri sauce, see recipe

1. For the marinade, put oil, vinegar, garlic, pepper, cumin, salt and ground red chile into a small bowl. Stir until salt is dissolved. Put the steak into a shallow dish; smear on all sides with the marinade. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature, or refrigerate up to 2 hours.

2. Heat a heavy cast-iron or nonstick griddle over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles furiously on contact. Add the steak in a single uncrowded layer. Cook on medium heat without turning, until the bottom is beautifully browned, about 3 minutes. Flip the steaks; cook until meat is nearly tender when pressed, 1 to 2 minutes more.

3. Transfer to a cutting board; let rest, 5 minutes. Cut the steaks into 3 -inch lengths; rotate the pieces so you can very thinly slice the meat across the grain. Serve immediately, drizzled with the smoky red chimichurri sauce.

Smoky Red Chimichurri Sauce

Prep: 10 minutes

Makes: about 3/4 cup

Take the bite out of raw garlic by poaching it first.

6 large cloves garlic, peeled

2 large shallots, very finely chopped, well-rinsed

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley or cilantro (or a combination)

1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika

1 teaspoon sweet ground red chile, such as New Mexico powder

Scant 3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1. Put garlic into a small microwave-safe dish. Cover with water. Microwave on high, 1 1/2 minutes. Drain; cool.

2. Crush garlic in a press or chop finely. Mix with remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Golden Roasted Potatoes with Chimichurri

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 25 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

4 large golden potatoes, 13/4 pounds total, scrubbed clean

2 tablespoons olive oil

Coarse (kosher) salt

Smoky red chimichurri sauce, see recipe

Chopped fresh cilantro, optional

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees convection or 400 degrees on conventional. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise; cut each half into 3 long 1-inch wide wedges. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet in a single, uncrowded layer. Pour oil over potatoes; turn to coat them on all sides with the oil. Sprinkle with a little salt.

2. Roast, turning potatoes once or twice, until tender when pierced with a fork and golden on the edges, 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Shortly before serving, heat the broiler to high. Broil potatoes, 6 inches from heat source, until potatoes puff slightly and brown nicely, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot with the red chimichurri sauce drizzled over all. Garnish with cilantro if desired.

Beef Kebabs with Peppers, Mushrooms And Red Chimichurri

Prep: 25 minutes

Cook: 6 minutes

Makes: 6 kebabs

These kebabs cook quickly under a hot broiler. Also, try them cooked over a charcoal grill or on a medium-hot gas grill.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon each: cracked black pepper, ground cumin, salt

1/4 teaspoon ground red chile, such as New Mexico chile or cayenne if you like it hot

1 1/2 pounds boneless beef tenderloin or beef sirloin, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (24 pieces)

12 whole baby bella mushrooms, wiped clean

2 red, orange or yellow bell peppers (or a combination), cored, cut into 11/2 inch pieces

Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

Smoky red chimichurri sauce, for serving, see recipe

1. For the marinade, put oil, vinegar, garlic, pepper, cumin, salt and red chile into a small bowl. Stir until salt is dissolved.

2. For each skewer, alternately thread 4 beef pieces, 2 mushrooms and 3 pieces of bell pepper onto each skewer. Put the prepared skewers onto a foil-lined baking sheet.

3. Spoon the marinade over the kebabs on all sides. Let kebabs stand at room temperature, 30 minutes. Or, refrigerate covered up to several hours.

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4. Position the broiler rack 6 inches from the heat source. Heat the broiler to high. Broil the kebabs, 6 inches from the heat source, 3 minutes. Gently flip the kebabs; broil until beef is medium-rare, about 3 minutes more.

5. Transfer skewers to a serving platter. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve hot with the red chimichurri sauce.

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