Viva Argentina!!!: Grilled Spicy Prawns with Chimichurri Dipping Sauce

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Chimichuri is a green sauce used in Argentinian cuisine to marinate grilled meats. Most often used is flank steak, but other meats and organs are also marinated and served with this chimichurri sauce. Comprised simply of parsley and/or cilantro, garlic, vinegar, oil and red pepper flakes, it's both cool and hot at the same time, and gives otherwise heavy and boring meats a blast of bright flavor and color.

Although the origins of the word are debatable, most hold it to derive from the Spanish mispronunciation of the English word "curry." Pick your legend for the etymology: either by English, Irish OR Scotsman Jimmy Curry asking for the green condiment ("give me curry" sounded like "chi-me-churri") or by British prisoners asking for the green salsa (Brits called a dipping condiment "curry" so in their mangled Spanglish said something like "dame curry" which evolved into "chimichurri"). Regardless, the sauce is authentic Argentinian but the name, funny enough, is not!

Chimichurri quite easy to make, especially if you have a food processor. Add you need is to place all of your ingredients in the bowl of the food processor, stream in oil, and you're done.

Although I serve it often with grilled steaks as in the Argentinian fashion, I also love it as a dipping sauce for grilled shrimp. I use prawns for this recipe because they are a bit larger and meatier, and can hold the thick sauce better than smaller shrimp. But by all means, use sweet smaller shrimp if you've got them.

Makes a great and colorful appetizer that would go perfect with a summer sangria or crisp white wine, or sturdy enough to be a main course. Either way, I'm sure you'll love it and make it often!

Grilled Spicy Prawns with Chimichurri
1 lb prawns (shells on)
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp red pepper flakes + more to taste
1 bunch fresh cilantro (or parsley or combo parsley and cilantro)
4 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
2 limes (or splash of white vinegar)

Take your prawns and wash them but leave the shells on. Pat dry very well and set aside in a bowl. Drizzle enough olive oil to coat the shrimp. Season with salt and black pepper, and one tablespoon of the pepper flakes. Toss with a spoon so shrimp are coated. Cover and let marinate for at least an hour (or overnight) in the fridge.

To make the chimichurri sauce, simply take the cilantro (and/or parsley) and run your knife against the stems, separating the leaves from the thick stems at the bottom. Discard the stems and place the leaves in the food processor. Add the garlic and lime juice, and add a good pinch of salt and some black pepper. Next add the remaining tablespoon of red pepper (or more or less to taste), cover and pulse it to chop it up. Then with the food processor on, add the oil through the feed tube (this is the part at the top with the hole in it) until the sauce becomes thick and delicious. Stop the processor and give it a taste; adjust with seasonings as needed. Place in bowl and serve or cover and refrigerate for later.

To make the prawns, bring them out of the fridge about 15 minutes before you want to grill them to take the chill off. Preheat a grill to medium-high (gas, charcoal or indoor stove-top grill works fine), and lay out the prawns on the grill with the shells still on. The shells will help insulate the meat inside from the direct heat, giving a moist and tender shrimp instead of a blackened rubbery mess. Cook the shrimp 3-4 minutes per side, depending on size, or until shrimp are bright orange and the white meat turns opaque. Remove and serve with lots of napkins!

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