Saturday, September 24, 2011

RECIPE - Stuffed Flank Steak (Matambre Enrolado)

Anyone who has some knowledge of Argentinian cuisine might be taken aback to see a recipe entitled Matambre Enrolado in a blog called Flavors of Brazil. First because the name is Spanish, not Portuguese, and second, because matambre is one of Argentina's most iconic dishes - a piece of flank steak that is butterflied, filled with vegetables and sometimes sausages, then rolled, tied with kitchen twine and grilled.

In Argentina matambre is associated with the culture of the gauchos - Argentina's "cowboys", who herd cattle on the enormous ranches (estancias) of the pampas. There are traditional gaucho ways of dressing, traditional songs and music, traditional legends and stories and traditional cooking - all as much a part of Argentinian culture and mythology as the cowboys of the Far West are a part of American culture.

The southernmost state in Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, shares the gaucho culture with Argentina and Uruguay. In fact, in Brazil, the name for someone from Rio Grande do Sul is gaúcho - the only difference being an accent on the letter u and a three-syllable pronunciation of the word (gah-OO-shoo). Rio Grande do Sul's gaúcho cuisine is based in large part on grilling beef in all its forms, and the world-famous Brazilian style of steakhouses called churrascarias originated in Rio Grande do Sul.

So it's really no surprise that Argentina's matambre crossed the frontier between northern Argentina and southern Brazil and became naturalized as a Brazilian dish in Rio Grande do Sul. It's often the centerpiece of a day-long weekend meal in the country and is an excellent choice for a crowd. The word matambre means "kills hunger" and that is certainly does. It does take some time to prepare, but the cooking process itself, though long, doesn't require much attention, leaving you free to participate in the festivities. And once sliced and plated, it's visually spectacular with its embedded vegetables and sausage - a showcase dish for an important event. And because flank steak (fraldinha) is a common and relatively inexpensive cut of beef almost everywhere, this is one dish that can be made almost anywhere without having to worry about substituting ingredients.
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RECIPE - Stuffed Flank Steak (Matambre Enrolado)
Serves 8-10

1 whole flank steak, about 4 lbs (2 kgs)
1 Tbsp salt, or to taste
1/3 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup green onion, finely chopped
2 large onions, cut in thick slices
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 small chili pepper (jalapena, serrano or similar), seeded and finely chopped (optional)
1/4 lb (100 gr) smoked slab bacon, cut into large cubes
1/2 lb (250 gr) kielbasa or other garlic sausage, thickly sliced
3 large carrots, quartered lengthwise
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Trim the flank steak of any visible fat and season it with salt. On a large clean countertop or butcher block, butterfly the steak, leaving the two halves attached at one edge. Open the steak and spread it out.

Sprinkle the surface of the opened steak with the chopped parsley and green onion. Do the same with the optional hot chili pepper. Lay out all the other ingredients, trying to spread each of them out on the surface.

Starting at one of the short edges, carefully roll up the steak tightly. When completely rolled, tie it securely with kitchen twine, making sure that the stuffing ingredients cannot fall out the ends. Reserve, in refrigerator if not cooking immediately. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking, if required.

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium heat. Place the rolled steak on the grill and sear the surface on all sides, turning the roll carefully. Total cooking time should be about 20 minutes. With two spatulas, remove the roll from the grill and wrap it tightly in aluminum foil. Return the roll to the grill and cook for about 2 hours, turning from time to time, over medium low heat.

Remove from grill and let stand for 10 minutes in the foil, then remove the foil and let stand for another 10 minutes. Cut into thick slices with a sharp knife and present on a large serving platter.

Recipe translated and adapted from Cozinha Regional Brasileira by Abril Editora.

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