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Summer Grilling: Churrasco

I suppose now that we are out of the most intense aspects of the "Quarantine" these days, at least in Iowa, I have decided to rename the recipe series. For the next month or so, I'm going to focus on things you can do with the grill during the summer. Since we still aren't out at restaurants en masse yet, I recommend continued refining of your home culinary skills, and the grill is a great place to hone said skills during the warmer months!

"Churrasco" is a sort of catch-all term for grilled or barbecued meat in certain parts of South America, particularly southern Brazil. The same style is also common but differently named in Argentina and Uruguay. It comes from native cooking traditions in the vicinity of the Grand Pampa, where livestock is bountiful. These days in the US, you can find an entire niche of high-end churrascarias, such as Fogo de Chão or Texas de Brazil, serving a version of this cuisine, with waiters wielding skewers of grilled meat and slicing off what you'd like. Fortunately, you don't have to shell out the big bucks required to eat at said places to have a stellar churrasco meal.

In a killer deal, acquired a nearly brand-new Weber grill from Facebook Marketplace last month, and it has received PLENTY of use since. I'd been jones-ing for kebabs, one of my favorite summer meals, since I got the grill, and the recent return of my sister, who adores all things steak, inspired me to buy fixin's for beef kebabs. After thinking a bit, however, I decided to go for churrasco-style skewers, with the veggies separately grilled.

Churrasco traditionally entails thinly-sliced skirt steak, but our local grocer had a special on decent-looking ribeyes, so I bought two and cubed them up into about one-inch cubes, saving the fattier bits for Maks. I'd normally dry-brine meat for about an hour before cooking, but the fam was hungry, so I salted and peppered the meat and added a hint of olive oil to prevent sticking. For the veggies, I julienned some red, yellow, and orange sweet peppers, adding some chunks of red onion, dousing in olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. I bought one of those fashionable mesh grilling bags at HyVee (recommend) and dumped the veggies inside. I included as well some steamed rice with cilantro, butter, and lime juice.

The key to this meal, however, is chimichurri, a traditional condiment from the same region of South America. I have worked with chimichurri for a few years now, and have been refining my technique. When I first wrote about chimichurri on the blog, I recommended using a food processor, as I estimate about 80 percent of recipes online instruct. I have since learned that the best thing to do is instead to finely chop the ingredients by hand, making the resulting sauce a condiment with herbs floating loosely in the oil rather than something more resembling a pesto (here is a good recipe!). Parsley, a bit of oregano and mint, a couple of small red chilis, three or four garlic cloves, salt and pepper, a tablespoon or two of red wine vinegar, and a healthy pour of olive oil make this fresh, slightly spicy condiment the perfect accompaniment to all kinds of meat.

I grilled the skewers and veggies, flipping from time to time, until the internal temp of the meat reached about 135 degrees. I then let the meat rest for a bit; you can spoon the chimichurri onto the meat while it rests, or serve it on the side. I served on the side because the spice tolerance varies between the three of us.

The chimichurri is just so good, and it made the grilled meat shine. Plus, it is SO easy to make, and incredibly versatile––you can adjust the ingredients to your flavor preference, and it goes just as well with things like salmon as it does red meat. In fact, this entire meal is pretty damn easy, and quite healthy! The family was most satisfied.

Wine to cook by: Whitcraft Winery's "My Friend Matt's Vineyard" Syrah from Santa Barbara County. Whitcraft is a cult producer of primarily pinot noir and chard from Santa Barbara County, and produces some of the most spectacular natural (unfiltered/unfined) wines from the region. I recently joined their wine club, and we inhaled the four pinots and one chard we received in our first shipment, leaving this more obscure, cool-climate syrah. I thought the peppery, aromatic character of syrah would go well with the flavor profile of the chimichurri, and the brighter, even effervescent qualities that resulted from the natural wine production methods would complement the spice. I was absolutely right, and we polished off the bottle quickly!

Hope you enjoy this new series! We have some excellent items upcoming for grilling, including jerk chicken and cedar plank salmon, as well as another item in the smoker. Stay tuned!

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