Sometimes I am struck with the urge to make something not because of its collection of ingredients or its alluring appearance, but simply because of its name. For instance, if I came across a recipe or photo of something that was referred to as “herbed, stuffed flank steak,” my interest would be less than piqued. But if that very same item was referred to as “Matambre: The Hunger Killer,” well, you better believe I am going to keep reading.
So, the hunger killer. Matambre is a dish from Argentina, and the name “matambre” is a combination of the Spanish verb for “slaughter” and the noun for ”hunger.” Generally speaking, matambre is a butterflied flank steak that is rubbed with garlic and herbs, stuffed with vegetables and hard boiled eggs, and then rolled, trussed, and roasted. If you start researching matambre, as I did out of curiosity, you’ll find that a lot of people tend to be rather wary of it, and I can see why. Recipes for matambre range from the simple (stuffed with vegetables and herbs) to the repellant (stuffed with cheese, hard boiled eggs, sausage, and a direct line to a cardiologist). Though I am no enemy of what might seem to be an over-the-top recipe, the idea of stuffing three animal products inside of another animal product just doesn’t appeal to me.
Luckily for everyone, there is Mark Bittman and his Minimalist column in the New York Times. In his take on matambre, Bittman does away with the sausage, eggs, and cheese, and instead focuses on seasoning the meat well, then rolling it around a selection of vegetables. Taking Bittman’s lead, I rolled the steak around carrots, red peppers, shallots, scallions, arugula, and fresh herbs. Everything considered, this just seems like a more prudent approach to making the dish. In this house, two out of three diners (the third diner abstained) gave the matambre a hearty thumbs up, and agreed that any additional meatiness or cheesiness would have served only as overkill, which, of course, as we know from the name, this dish most certainly does not need.
Adapted from The New York Times
1 flank steak, 1 to 1 ½ pounds
salt and pepper
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 small shallot, cut into thin ribs
1 large scallion, sliced into thin strips
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 medium carrot, cut into thin sticks
¼ of a small red bell pepper, cut into think sticks
¼ cup fresh arugula leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Use a sharp knife to butterfly flank steak by working across the grain, making a cut down the center, but only halfway through the thickness of the meat. At the top of the center cut, make a perpendicular cut following the grain, halfway through the thickness of the steak, all the way across the length of the steak. Repeat perpendicular cut at the other end of the center cut. Cuts should resemble the letter H lying on its side.
At the top of the original center cut, hold the knife parallel to the meat and insert knife. Slice toward you, making a pocket. This cut should almost reach the outer edge, halfway through the meat’s thickness. Repeat on other side. Open the flaps like a book.
Season meat liberally on both sides with salt and pepper, then place it cut side up, wide side facing you. Season with oregano, cumin and garlic, patting the seasoning down lightly. Add the shallots, scallions, cilantro, and parsley. Arrange carrots and peppers lengthwise across the meat. Place arugula over everything.
Roll meat up from the bottom like a jellyroll; grain of steak should run length of roll. Tie in three or four places with butcher’s twine.
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or roasting pan large enough to accommodate rolled steak. Deeply brown it on all sides, about 15 minutes total, then place lid on pan and transfer to oven and roast for about 30 minutes, until meat is cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 30 minutes before serving. Or, put meat in a clean baking dish, weight it with a plate with something heavy on it and chill overnight. Take matambre from refrigerator and slice it into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces about an hour before serving at room temperature.