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Cooking the Book: Grilled Argentine Steaks and Plantains

2012 May 30

If, as you’re reading this recipe, you think, “Gee, that sounds like an awful lot of salt on that steak…” you would be right. I was kind of tempted to chalk this one up to a FAIL. but since I already had the whole recipe typed up before we were even done cooking it, I figured I might as well post it and at least say why we didn’t like it.

Part of my disappointment may have been that I over-hyped it in my head. Things about faking dry-aged beef with cornstarch, salt and your freezer sounded brilliant! I was ready to never make steaks at home without doing this! I was going to tell everyone I knew! Plus, there’s the inherent excitement of grilling season being upon us, hooray! Everyone I know is going to need to makethisrightnowallsummerlongorcomeoverandwe’llmakeitforyouwhilewedrinkredwineoutside!! You know, like that.

Unfortunately, the results were less than stellar. Admittedly, Mr. Kitchenette and I had a slight miscommunication about when to put the wood chunks on the fire (after the charcoal chimney is dumped out but before the meat goes on the grill) but the problems weren’t about the smokiness at all.

The Good

The chimichurri sauce is herbaceous and tasty. That’s pretty much all the good there is on this one.

The Bad

The steak came out incredibly salty and with none of the “Argentinian steakhouse snap” touted in the recipe and its description. As I understand it, there should have been an almost-crustiness on the outside that was flavorful and almost crunchy but not quite because of its extreme thinness. Nope. None of that. Just salty. Not too salty to eat, but we were hungry. And it was covered in herbaceous green sauce (through which we could still taste the saltiness).

Grilled plantains are never going to be our favorite thing. They were kind of like a dry baked potato with no butter, but without the fluffy redeeming qualities of plain baked potatoes. Dry. Starchy. Chalky, even. Something that looks like a banana but tastes like an unappealing potato probably needs more than salt and pepper to help it out. Maybe they weren’t ripe enough, in spite of sitting on the counter for a week. Maybe we didn’t cook them long enough or cooked them too long. But I don’t think we’ll be going down that road again to find out.

The Leftovers

There’s not much else to say, other than we won’t be trying this one again for the foreseeable future. I can see us making the chimichuri again, but probably on a more tried-and-true flank steak or something.

If you give this one a whirl in spite of our problems with it, please let me know how it went for you!

Grilled Argentine Steaks with Plantains and Chimichurri Sauce

Serves 2

From Cooking for Two, 2011

Ingredients

for the sauce

1 teaspoon hot water

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

3 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley

2 Tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

pinch red pepper flakes

pinch sugar

for the steak and plantains

1 teaspoon cornstarch

kosher salt

1 1-pound boneless strip steak, about 1 1/2 inches thick

2 large ripe plantains (10 to 12 ounces each), halved crosswise and sliced lengthwise

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

4 2-inch un-soaked wood chunks

1 (9-inch) perforated disposable aluminum pie pan (if using gas grill)

Method

for the sauce

Combine hot water and oregano in small bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining sauce ingredients and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. (Sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days; return to room temperature before serving.)

for the steak and plantains

Combing cornstarch and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in small bowl. Pat steaks dry with a paper towel and rum entire surface evenly with cornstarch mixture. Place on wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet and freeze steak, uncovered, until firm, about 30 minutes (but no more than 1 hour). Before grilling, season steak with pepper. Brush plantains with oil and season with salt and pepper.

On a charcoal grill: Open bottom grill vents completely. Light large charcoal chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (100 briquettes; 6 quarts). When colas are hot, pour them evenly in layer over grill. Using tongs, place wood chunks directly on top of colas, spacing them evenly around perimeter of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover and open lid vents completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes. On a gas grill: Turn all burners on high, cover and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Place wood chunks i pie plate and set on one side of the grill. Close lit and heat until wood chunks begin to smoke, about 5 minutes (Adjust burners as needed to maintain hot fire).

Clean and oil cooking grate. Place steak on grill (next to, not over wood chunks if using gas) and cook until steak begins to char on first side, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip steak again and cook until second side and continue to cook, covered, until second side begins to char, 2 to 3 minutes longer.

Flip steak again and cook until first side is well charred, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip steak again and cook until steak registers 120 to 125 on instant read thermometer, about 4 minutes. Transfer steak to carving board, tent loosely with foil and let rest.

While steak rests, grill plantains (covered if using gas) until spottily charred on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes, flipping plantains halfway through. Transfer plantains to serving platter. Cut steak into 1/2 inch-thick slices and serve with plantains and sauce.

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