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.
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.
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 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: