Friday, March 15, 2013


A couple of months after I first moved to Argentina and finally understood enough not to say when I was waiting for service in restaurants and waiters asked me "ya te atendieron?" (have you been helped yet?), I realized I would need to learn to roll my r's if I was ever going to have any hope at a passable non-English accent. My friend Carolina taught me an exercise that small children are given in Latin American countries to strengthen their r-rolling abilities: Rrr con rrr cigarrrro, rrr con rrr barrrrril, rrrapido rrruedan los carrros, sobre el ferrrrrocarrrril. But it's not easy to make your tongue do something it doesn't know how to do, and I sounded stupid, and at some point someone told me, just try to relax your tongue against the roof of your mouth while you try to make the sound and it'll vibrate on its own. What this meant was that I spent several months practicing, often in public walking home from work, people giving me the sideways eye, until it slowly came around (well, mostly-- I can't roll my r's endlessly like Felipe can, but I'm a master at rapido rued-ing the carros sobre the f-ing ferrocarril.)

It also meant that I was able to go parrillas, the meat-based center of Argentinean gastronomy, and ask to be passed the chimichurri sauce without being given the gringo stink eye. Chimichurri is a parsley-based sauce that is great both on the traditional meat as well as vegetables and whatever else you might have lying around (but not, uh, fruit). It's vinegary and not particularly spicy (this is Argentina we're talking about here, home of the biggest wusses I've ever met in my life as far as spice tolerance goes), and it's an integral part of one of my favorite things to eat in Argentina-- choripan, which is literally chorizo + pan, but between the fatty Argentinean (non-spicy) chorizo and the healthy dose of chimichurri slicked onto the bread, it's about as perfect a food as you could possibly want.

My Argentinean friend Alejandra's father owns a parrilla down in Patagonia and I was thrilled to get a hold of his recipe, which in all honesty is probably better than the chimichurri found at your typical hole-in-the-wall joint. It's a great use of a bunch of parsley and keeps for at least a week in the fridge. It will leave you with lovely breath, but that won't matter because you'll probably be too full to do anything social anyway, leaving you lots of time to practice your r's.

Patagonian Chimichurri Sauce
     adapted from Parrilla La Tranquera, Sarmiento, Chubut

1 large bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, finely chopped (around 2 cups)
8-10 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. sweet Spanish paprika (I used 1/2 Tbsp. smoked paprika and 1/2 Tbsp. red pepper flakes, which I liked a lot)
1/2 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. salt

Grab a large, clean glass jar with a top (mason jar or whatever), and throw the parsley, garlic, basil and paprika in. Add in the oil, vinegars and lemon juice, making sure the parsley is covered (add more olive oil to cover if necessary). Add in salt, stirring to mix, and taste to adjust the salt and vinegar if necessary. Cover the jar and refrigerate it-- you can use it immediately, but it will improve sitting a day or two before use.

Chimichurri Patagónico
      adaptada de Parrilla La Tranquera, Sarmiento, Chubut
1 atado de perejil, sin los cabos, picado bien finito (como 2 tazas)
8-10 dientes de ajo, picados
2 hojas de albahaca fresca, picadas
1 cucharada de pimiento español (aji, el que es rojo y medio
1/2 taza de aceite de oliva
2 cucharadas de vinagre de manzana
2 cucharadas de vinagre balsamico
2 cucharadas de jugo de limon
1 cucharita de sal

Poner en un frasco de vidrio (ojo, que no sea de plastico) con tapa hermetica como para conserva, el perejil, ajo, albahaca y pimiento todo bien picadito. Agregar aceite, jugo de limon y vinagres hasta que cubra al perejil. Luego la sal. Probar, y corregir al gusto, agregando mas vinagre o sal, si se estima necesario. Tapar el frasco de vidrio y refrigerar. Queda mas rico si se refrigera por un dia o dos antes de usarlo.

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