We booked a trip to Brazil as a last minute getaway. We had never traveled to South America and it was at the top of our list. So why not now? As we headed to Rio, we knew that we were in for some incredible food. But where do you start? How do you know what’s authentic and traditional and what is just there for the tourists?
Thankfully, we found Tom. Tom, our lovely and charismatic food tour guide, whose passion for Rio comes through in every word that he says and with every emphatic hand movement he gives. He took us through the city, over the famous Selaron steps in Lapa, shopping through the food markets and finally ending in a quaint restaurant where we ate until we were dizzy. We ate salted cod fritters, tapioca pancakes, Amazonian soup that left our tongues numb, salted beef and seafood stew. We drank freshly pressed sugar cane juice, Amazon beer and caipirinhas.
It should have ended there.
But instead, we all ended up at Tom’s house, enjoying the panoramic views of Rio and a trip to his local watering hole. The bar, long and narrow, spilled out on to the streets. We stood around a table, drinking beer and hanging out with the locals.
It should have ended there.
We decided that this would be a great time to go samba dancing. 8 of us piled into cabs and found a samba dancing school in a sketchy area of town. We snuck in to watch the dancers practice for Carnival. The music resonated in our heads and travelled down to our hips and before we all realized it, we were all on the dance floor trying to move like the samba dancers.
Feeling nostalgic, I wanted to cook something to remember this day. And of course, what better way to pay homage to a South American country than to grill steak!? I marinated flank steak in olive oil, garlic, paprika and lemon juice. After grilling it, we sliced it up and piled it high on top of grilled bread and layered on the chimichurri sauce.
Oh right!? I haven’t told you about that yet! Chimichurri is a garlicky, oily, herby condiment served next to grilled meats. Finely chopped herbs, like parsley and oregano, are combined with garlic, vinegar and oil. The sauce can be eaten right away, or left for days (to weeks even) in order to let the flavours marry to get super pungent flavour. Fresh herbs will give you a bright green colour whereas dried herbs and paprika may give a dark red colour, both equally delicious.
I used fresh cilantro and parsley for this recipe and since I didn’t have any white vinegar at home, I subbed in lemon juice. I chopped up the herbs really fine and then combined it with garlic, lemon juice, chilli flakes and covered it in olive oil. We used it right away which is why the sauce is bright green but don’t worry if it green colour wilts a little, it just means there’s a lot of flavour going on!
- 1 lb flank steak
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 garlic clove, finely diced
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ cup cilantro
- 1 cup parsley
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 ½ tsp chili flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Olive oil to cover
- Sandwich buns
- Place the flank steak in a ziploc bag along with the olive oil, paprika, garlic and lemon juice. Let it marinate for at least 2 hours to overnight.
- Before you cook the steak, take it out for 30 minutes to allow it to come to room temperature. Sprinkle salt and pepper over top of the steak.
- Grill the steak for 5 minutes on each side for medium doneness. Take it off the grill and wrap it in aluminum foil and let it rest for 20 minutes.
- Slice the steak in thin slices.
- For the chimichurri sauce, chop the herbs very fine and place in a sealable container. Dice the garlic and add it to the herbs. Add in the chilli flakes, lemon juice and then cover with olive oil.
- Grill the sandwich buns or toast them in the oven. Layer on the steak and chimichurri sauce and serve.