The Matambre Challenge

Matambre translated into English means shoe leather. Some, however, might try to convince you that it is a word mash up of matar (to kill) and hambre (hunger) to equal matambre (hunger killer). Pay no attention to them.

I imagine hunger killer was chosen because your jaw will be in so much pain after eating this flavorful yet chewy meat that the slightest thought of food will never again enter your mind. Nor will your system be able to digest that rubberized strip of chest and belly meat.

There is a matambre post sitting around and collecting dust somewhere around here. I decided to keep it there until I defeat the dragon that is known as the cut matambre de vaca. Often translated as thin beef flank steak, the cut is basically belly meat that runs from the chest to the flank. Not to be confused with the “other” flank steak known as vacio. When matambre de vaca is used to prepare matambre arrollado, or rolled thin beef flank steak, you get this slow cooked succulent tender meat rolled around vegetables, spices, and a sort of bread stuffing mixture. More into the whole matambre usage thing when I dust off the other post. The actual matambre cut that is grilled by itself is another story.

Matambre a la parrilla, or grilled thin flank steak, can end up other end of the spectrum–shoe leather–if not prepared properly or if the quality of meat is poor. You see, I’ve enjoyed some tender matambre that was cooked quite rapidly but that happened once every blue moon. In many other instances each morsel of meat took at least a minute to chew, sometimes more. You really don’t know what you’re going to get when you toss that meat on the grill. I’ve ruined a few meals with what I thought would be tender matambre yet ended up with something that would have sent us to the dentist for false teeth if fully consumed. This is probably why you won’t see it on many restaurant menus.

matambre de vaca raw

With many other meats you know what to expect and how to handle them. Rib meat and brisket always should be cooked slowly. Tenderloin is super juicy and tender when you cook it rare, cook it too long and you get a dry sawdust texture. When you look up recipes or advice for those types of meat, what I just said about them is typically consistent with what others say. Matambre, on the other hand is quite unique. Everyone has their own version and many of those vary extensively. I want to find a sure-fire way that works every time whether or not the meat is of good quality.

Matambre Cut Diagram

I’ve decided to create The Matambre Challenge. Think of it as a contest, a reality show of sorts, where the contestants are different methods of preparation and cooking. I will search the web, cookbooks, ask around, and create my own experiments. The winner will be included in my main matambre post that has yet to be seen. Simply because I don’t want to be one of those out there that say, “Oh you have to cook it this way,” yet that way still produces shoe leather.

The Matambre Challenge

The rules are simple:

- With each challenge the contestants will face off against a plain jane control: a scored piece of matambre that is not even seasoned with salt.

- Preparation needs to stay true to what is consistent with the style of cooking, preparation, and ingredients used around various locales in Argentina.

- Each contestant will be sliced from the same cut, but in a way where each portion will have similar properties such as the thickest and thinest parts from the same area.

This is not a scientific experiment. I’m not going to test ten different variations at once. Sure there are flaws but the main objective is to beat the control and discover a method that really stands out.

Results So Far:

The Matambre Challenge: Round One

The Matambre Challenge: Round Two

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8 Comment(s)

  1. I have two recipes for the price of one:

    1.- Matambre a la Pizza: yes, I know that you want “Matambre a la parrilla”, but you could try just the first steps and leave it without the toppings. Take a medium size Matambre and put it on a table the fat side up. Gently cut some fat with a good knife leaving let’s say the 50% of that fat. Put the Matambre in a pot and boil it in 50% water and 50% milk during 30 minutes. In the mean time, prepare a tomato sauce with one big onion, half red pepper, three fresh tomatoes and basil. Cut all the ingredients in 1cm cubes, put the onion and the pepper in a recipient with a little of olive oil, when the onions are transparent, add the tomatoes and the basil, low the fire and cook all for 10 minutes. After that, put the Matambre over the parrilla, the fat side down, salt and pepper, be sure you have good brasas, cook it for 5-10 minutes or up to you see the fat golden brown. Turn it upside down, add the tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese and wait till the cheese in melted, add some oregano. You could consider it as a pizza, so choose you favorite toppings.

    2.- Matambre con verduras: put the Matambre on a Table, fat side up. Cut in slices a variety of vegetables like onions, red peppers, carrots, celery, zuccinis, etc, filling the half of the Matambre, salt and pepper, close the other half and close like and empanada using toothpicks. Put over the parrilla and cook it slowly on both sides.

    José Luis | Jan 9, 2007 | Reply

  2. Gracias José, good stuff.

    Your verduras recipe looks tasty and must add some serious flavor to the meat. Can’t wait to try it.

    I love matambre a la pizza but like to use matambre de cerdo instead since as it always comes out tender.

    I did a beef one a while back and it wasn’t tooooo bad but still a bit rough around the edges. I preferred the toppings more than the meat. Your recipe looks a lot better than my way of just slapping on some toppings so I’ll definitely give that try too.

    Matambre A La Pizza or roughly grilled flank steak pizza

    I also did the precooking in milk, but with no toppings, which I’ll post about in the first challenge.

    Asado Arg | Jan 9, 2007 | Reply

  3. Over Christmas I prepared peceto marinated overnight in red wine. It was tasty. Try it with matambre.

    Ernesto | Jan 30, 2007 | Reply

  4. Thanks for the suggestion Ernesto, I’ll add that to the list.

    Asado Arg | Jan 30, 2007 | Reply

  5. Hi, yes, I forgot to mention that I also put in some crushed garlic. I did nothing fancy, I didn’t even peel them. I just took 4 or 5 dientes de ajo (cloves?), crushed them with the flat surface of a kitchen knife, and put them in a bowl with the peceto and cheap red wine, marinating in the fridge overnight.

    Ernesto | Feb 1, 2007 | Reply

  6. muy rico

    johana | Feb 3, 2007 | Reply

  7. Hi we have 2 different ways of cooking Matambre one is boiled very slow with stuffing of spinach eggs boiled carrots cut long wise and spices rolled and tided with string in a roll then boiled and at the end take out and press for 12hrs then you can use as cold meat or as you wish the other is marinade in milk with spices for BBQ it tenderise

    Catalina | Dec 15, 2007 | Reply

  8. Had I googled and found your site, maybe I would not had to decipher my brother-in-laws directions along with the jejeje´s.

    The boiling in milk method worked wonders, and I even poured the remaining milk fat and liquid on top of the meat while it baked. It was super tender and I wish I had learned to cook this sooner!

    Joli | May 23, 2009 | Reply

2 Trackback(s)

  1. Jan 26, 2007: from Asado Argentina » The Matambre Challenge: Round One
  2. Oct 14, 2008: from The Matambre Challenge: Round Three : Asado Argentina

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