Once a week I encourage Alex to flip through my cookbooks and pick a recipe for me to cook for us that week. This has the dual purpose of letting him have a say in what we eat and of keeping things interesting for me by finding new inspiration in the cookbook pages that I seem to flip through mindlessly from time to time. Incredibly, he has a knack for selecting recipes that are particularly complex or time-intensive to prepare (he calls it my “Top Chef training”), and this week was no exception. Matambre, which apparently translates to “shoe leather” in English (but whose morphemes are more commonly translated to “hunger killer“) was Alex’s selection this week, and we were delighted to enjoy it with an old friend who was in town visiting.
The dish itself merits a bit of explanation. From what I can gather, it’s a traditionally Argentinian dish, though other South American countries have their own versions. It can be served hot like a roast or cold like at the deli counter. Its stuffing usually involves hard-boiled eggs, veggies like spinach, carrots, onions, and even roasted red peppers, and something salty–olives, anchovies, cheese, etc. The cut of meat, the flank, comes from the belly section of a hindquarter and contains no bone segments. Our friends at Edible Blue Ridge remind us that “it can be tough because it has a lot of tissue,” which explains a) the translation of “shoe leather,” and b) the reason for cooking it for such a lengthy amount of time. Some recipes even suggest marinating the meat for a while in red wine vinegar to help tenderize it. (I didn’t do this, and it turned out rather tender–perhaps because of the luscious bacon it was wrapped in).
Frankly, I like “hunger killer” story, and as one blogger explains, when grilled, a thin flank steak cooks so quickly, so pieces of matambre are sliced off and eaten, staving off hunger until the thicker cuts of meat are done. Of course, if Matambre is the main course, this legend seems irrelevant, but I can say that we did not leave the table hungry.
The recipe I followed was sort of a combination of two recipes and what I had on hand. Originally I was following one from Get Grilling, but as it is pouring down rain here thanks to Tropical Storm Nicole, the preparation of our meal on the grill proved futile. So I also used a recipe from Food Network’s Tyler Florence which h involved some stovetop simmering. Here’s how it all went down:
First I made the filling, tossing it all together in a large bowl.
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 3 anchovies, chopped fine
– 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
– 1/3 cup grated parmesean cheese
– about 6 oz. chopped baby spinach
– zest of one lemon
– about 2 tablespoons olive oil
– good pinch of salt and pepper
Then I butterflied the steak, which basically means cutting through it horizontally so that it opens up like a book. Unfortunately my hands were messy so I wasn’t able to take a video of this, but here‘s a video of someone butterflying a chicken breast (and having issues with English language usage – I’m not lie-ing) so you can get the idea. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil on both sides.
I peeled a small carrot and sliced it into four strips and placed them on the steak. I piled on the spinach/egg filling, leaving a small border around the edges. Then I rolled it all up, jelly-roll style, stretching the meat gently as I went. Having never stuffed meat before, this was a bit of a bizarre experience for me because I felt like I was making a cake, but of course, it wasn’t.
I had about 5 strips of bacon left from a package I had opened for a Sunday brunch a while back, so I layered these on the cutting board, placing the meat roll on top. I wrapped each bacon slice around the steak and secured them using butcher twine. I also tied one piece around the steak lengthwise, in a feeble attempt to keep all the filling inside.
At this point, I was originally going to grill my creation on indirect heat for about 40 minutes, turning every 8 minutes or so. Instead, I opted to give it a good simmer in a red wine jacuzzi in my cast iron dutch oven. Before adding the wine, I seared the meat on all sides in a bit of olive oil to brown it up and seal in all the good stuff. When everything was getting nice brown marks, I poured in most of a bottle of red wine (saving a glass or two to drink, of course). As this didn’t cover the meat totally, I added about a cup and a half of water just so the meat was almost covered in liquid.
The aromatics you see in the pot included half an onion sliced into rings, a head of garlic – all cloves smashed and tossed in, a few sprigs of rosemary, and two bay leaves. Doesn’t it look fantastic?
So I covered the pot and let it simmer for about 55 minutes. During that time I cleaned up the kitchen and cut up some Yukon golds for roasted potatoes, seasoned them (salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic powder, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and a sprinkling of a parmesean seasoning), and set them up on a pan in a 375F oven to roast for about 45 minutes, turning them around about halfway through. I even had time to enjoy some fruit, cheese, and conversation with our honored guest. So, yes, I think this is a great meal to have simmering away when you’re expecting company; not only will your house smell super, you’ll have time to be a good host(ess) and converse without slaving over the stove.
When time was up, I took out the meat and let it rest for 15 minutes before cutting the butcher twine. Then, carefully, I sliced the meat into 1-inch thick slices, being careful not to disturb the filling roulade. The result was a little something like this:
Yes, I was skeptical about how the eggs would hold up inside the steak in a red wine broth, but they did beautifully! The meat was tender and really flavorful. This was such an interesting way to eat steak, and I’d definitely make it again! (well, you know, for special occasions)
So what do you think? Does this meal look like something that would fend off your hunger? If not, what’s the meal that does satisfy you to the point that your pants feel momentarily too tight? What other foods do you like to roll up jelly-roll style? Share your drool-inducing ideas by leaving a comment.