Intensely Flavorful!

Chimichurri is the star salsa of the Argentine grill, but the lesser known salsa criolla is as good, or better. Full of onions, red peppers, and herbs, the mixture is a light but intensely flavorful condiment for grilled steak. Salsa criolla is probably the most important and most popular side dish/sauce in Peru.

The original plan was to cook the Argentine Spiced-Rubbed Flank Steak with Salsa Criolla on a Wednesday evening. But Mother Nature played a cruel joke on us in Mid-March with the biggest snowstorm of the season the day prior, making it all but impossible to grill. I intended to rub the meat and make the salsa a day ahead, which would’ve worked perfectly because my place of business was closed. But then Russ and I took inventory of all our leftovers that needed to be consumed over the next few days… Not to be deterred, we just added it to the following week’s menu plan.

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OMG, this was delicious! Our steak was one piece and weighed in at 2 pounds. With our revised plans to have it for dinner on a Monday, I made the rub adding a tablespoon of olive oil (which is noted in the directions below) to make sure it stuck to the meat, and whipped together the criolla on Sunday afternoon. Note, I did not add the 1/4 cup of water to the criolla as noted in Step 2, and I’m glad I didn’t. In the end the salsa was liquidy enough with the oil, vinegar and juices from the tomato.

Once rubbed, I put the steak on a platter and wrapped it in saran wrap then put both it and the salsa in the fridge for 27 hours, making sure to take them out and come to room temperature an hour before I started cooking. Still with plenty of snow on the ground, I planned on searing the meat in a very hot skillet as opposed to grilling. Thank goodness we had one big enough to accommodate the large steak. After 5 minutes on side one, I flipped it and seared the other side for 4 minutes, then took it out of the pan and let it rest tented with foil for another 5 minutes.

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The ingredients for the rub are added to a small bowl and then mixed together.

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After the meat was spread with the rub on both sides, it was covered in plastic wrap and refrigerated.

When carving flank steak, it’s best to do so at an angle against the grain in thin slices. We plated the sliced meat and its juices on a platter with a swath of the criolla strewn across the top. Our side was steamed asparagus which also benefited from getting chummy with the salsa. And rounding out the meal was a simple side salad— a perfect low-carb, high protein, colorful dinner that was packed with flavor! I can’t wait until the weather warms and we can make this meal again for company using our grill…

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The garlic paste is made, and the other ingredients for the criolla are assembled.

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The finished salsa is put in an air tight container and refrigerated over night.

Ingredients

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced and mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4-1/2 lb. flank steak (about 3 medium steaks), trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 large ripe tomato, cored, seeded, and fi nely diced (about 1-1/4 cup)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced (about 1-1/3 cups)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white-wine vinegar

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The flank steak sears in hot oil in a large skillet for 4-5 minutes per side.

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After resting for 5 minutes, the meat is carved at an angle against the grain.

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Salsa criolla tops both the meat and our side of asparagus.

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, mix about two-thirds of the garlic paste with 1 Tbs. of the thyme, 2 tsp. of the black pepper, the chili powder, brown sugar, olive oil and 1-1/2 Tbs. of the salt. Arrange the steaks on a rimmed baking sheet and pat the spice rub all over them. Cover and let sit for at least 4 hours and up to 1 day in the refrigerator.
  2. In a 1-qt. sealable container, combine the tomato, onion, red pepper, oil, and vinegar with 1/4 cup water (I omitted the 1/4 cup water), and the remaining garlic paste, 1 Tbs. thyme, 2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. black pepper. Shake well. Refrigerate for up to 1 day before serving.
  3. Heat a gas grill to medium high or prepare a hot charcoal fire.* Grill the steak (covered on a gas grill) until it has good grill marks on the first side, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the steak; if using a gas grill, reduce the heat to medium  and cover the grill. Continue to cook until done to your liking (make a slit in the steak to take a peek), 4 to 5 minutes more for medium rare; 6 to 7 minutes more for medium.
  4. Let the steak rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes and then slice thinly across the grain. Stir or shake the salsa criolla and serve with the steak.

*If unable to grill, on high heat for about 4-5 minutes per side, pan sear the steaks in a heavy skillet large enough to accommodate the meat.

Adapted from Tony Rosenfeld of Fine Cooking

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