The Gaucho Steak

Continued from Food And Cooking In Argentina: Setting A Few Things Straight

Quick Summary: Grilled steak with chimichurri is not called a gaucho steak in Argentina.

Often refers to grilled steak that is marinated, basted, or served with chimichurri. Restaurants that either offer a mix of various Latin American cuisines or those that want to take advantage of chimichurri’s popularity might have this item on the menu. Celebrity chefs and cookbook authors also enjoy offering a recipe to the population when they cover Latin America or Argentina or, as with restaurants, to take advantage of chimichurri’s popularity. This then trickles down to the food bloggers who go on to create their gaucho steak posts.

The gaucho steak was probably born out of a restaurateur as a gimmick to associate the dish with Argentina or someone thought, “Hey, there are cowboy steaks, gauchos were like the cowboys of Argentina, let’s add chimichurri to a steak and call it gaucho steak.” I remember Taco Bell having a Mexican pizza, comprised of flour tortillas, cheese, and other stuff, but in Mexico a pizza is a pizza.

Examples:
(Dislclaimer: I have not watched these episodes and therefore I have no idea about the dialogue that took place. I’m only going by what was written online.)

Tyler Florence’s Gaucho-Grilled Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Episode Description: Fernando Alva of Byram, CT, grew up in Argentina and loves Argentine beef. Tyler teaches him some ways to get that same great taste outdoors over a BBQ. Together, they make Strip Steak, Salt Crusted Potatoes, and a Matambre.

“Cut the steak across the grain on the diagonal and fan the slices out on a platter. Spoon some chimichurri over the meat and serve with the remaining sauce at the table.”

Guy Fieri’s Gaucho Steak with 4-Herb Chimichurri

Episode Description: Garlic and herbs on meat, chorizo in salad, even tequila in dessert — sounds a little crazy! But next time you grill a steak, do as Guy does and look no further than South America for inspiration. Gaucho Steak and Four Herb Chimichurri, Spinach and Chick Pea Sauté and a Tequila Lime Tart.

“Heat grill or pan to high heat, cook skirt steak to medium-rare, let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then cut on bias in 1/4 inch pieces, and top with chimichuri sauce. “

Michael Chiarello’s Grilled Gaucho Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Episode Description: It’s a trip to Argentina in a party that has mangos, tangos and great big gaucho steaks hot off the grill. So simple, so fun, it will bring out the gaucho in everyone. Tango lessons optional.

If I told friends and family that I’m going to grill up bifes de gaucho this weekend, a number of eyebrows would be raised along with a few questions tossed in my direction. What are you talking about? What’s that?

See the quoted text in bold? I’ll cover that in a later post but if I served meat thinly sliced with chimichurri on top, no one would want to come to my asados again unless I changed the error of my ways.

The gauchos were a tough bunch. They were known to slaughter a cow in the middle of nowhere, cut out the best parts, roast them, and eat until their bellies were full. The remaining carcass was left for the critters in the wild. Gauchos didn’t have Weber grills to sear rib-eye steaks for 3 minutes per side with a bowl of chimichurri waiting on the side. In fact, they didn’t even cut and cook steaks as many do today. Gauchos took their large chunks of meat and secured them to metal or wooden spits next to a fire. Serving meant unsheathing a facon and slicing off a morsel. If they sliced piece to large to eat then they gripped the chunk with their teeth and cut off a more edible size.

Here is the deal with steaks in Argentina and I’ll cover them more in the future. If someone craves a thick grilled steak, they usually go to a restaurant. If they are craving for a steak at home they toss one or more onto a hot grill pan or skillet. The culture of coming home from work on a Wednesday night and firing up the parrilla to cook nothing more than a few steakhouse-style steaks for the family does not exist here as it does in other parts of the world. Nor is it common to see one doing it on a warm weekend, day or night, for friends and family. Sure there are some who do it but the main point is that it is not a huge part of the culture as some may lead you to believe. The majority prefers to use their parrillas for asados with different types or cuts of meat, offal, and chorizos and they want those cooked nice and slow.

Update: Fixed the wording on a couple of sentences in the last paragraph to further clarify that I’m referring to the culture of grilling steakhouse-style steak cuts on a grill that can be seen other countries.

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9 Comment(s)

  1. Good post! So True.

    Pia | May 24, 2010 | Reply

  2. Had an interesting group this last weekend in for a private dinner. They were shocked to find out that chimichurri was a) reddish in color, b) was not used to both marinate and then later smother the steak, and c) was not fiery spicy. They had attended some sort of major food event in the US not long ago where a whole presentation and demonstration was done on Argentine asados – and the chimichurri was offered up as a) the simple parsley and garlic mixture that we generally just put on fish or chicken, b) the steak was marinated in it for an hour before grilling and then scoops of it were served over the steak, and c) in addition to the parsley, garlic, oil and vinegar, it had several chopped green chilies in it.

    We had a talk.

    Dan | Jun 8, 2010 | Reply

  3. Chimichurri and how it is used on everything and how it has to be a bright green sauce is next ;)

    Asado Argentina | Jun 8, 2010 | Reply

  4. Maybe this is a good time for a small rant on an article I once read on Argentine food where they spelled facón “façon”. Years later, I still come to the same conclusion: the editors thought the pronunciation was just a little too rude for the sensitive little ears of the readership.

    Vibey | Jul 19, 2010 | Reply

  5. Could not resist commenting. I liked your direct comments on steak making culture in America. I have tried steaks cooked in various parts but there is nothing that can be compared to steaks in an real Argentinian restaurant and next to that steaks cooked by a real “regio” in a “carne asada” party. I have not found good steaks in any restaurant in USA except – Fogo de Chavo (Brazilian), Benihana (Japanese) and a few local restaurants in Texas. (I am mentioning only the chain restaurants. There are a few local ones who make excellent stakes too.) Still – anyday I will prefer – “Carne Asada using Cabreria or rib eye with Cebolla Asada with Jalapenos with Maize Tortillas with infinite amount of beer flowing around” OR – “A great tres cuartos grilled rib eye in an Argentinian restaurant like El Gaucho with a half bottle of superb Chianti or Rioja.” The only thing that I will eat or drink after this is – either the best made Tiramisu or Martell VSOP (or XO if I can). You try this and I assure that you will prefer to live rest of your day just by yourself doing something that involves just you.

    jagmohan | Jul 29, 2010 | Reply

  6. A little added herbs is good, but there is nothing like a plain Argentine steak cooked over wood coals.

    Steven | Oct 30, 2011 | Reply

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  9. When I want to go out to eat, I order steak.. Whatever I have to force down at home, out on the town I am going to hit the meat.

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