Saturday, March 16, 2013

"Swordipán" - Grilled Swordfish Sandwich with Argentinean Chimichurri

Check out this recipe on my new and improved website:

Chimichurri has always eluded me a bit... it's green, it's fresh and tangy, it's from South America (Argentina/Uruguay), and it's a... marinade? A sauce? A condiment? This week I set out to find some of the most traditional recipes and uses for Chimichurri. I did so successfully and proceeded to twist tradition to fit my own dietary preferences. In the end, I took an Argentinean Choripán (a street sandwich made with chorizo and a touch of Chimichurri as a condiment) and replaced the chorizo with grilled swordfish to make a "Swordipán" (my favorite invented word so far in my blogging adventure). My memorized recipe was a traditional Chimichurri from a dear Argentinean friend's family, and it's one that I can see plenty of use for in the future.

About Chimichurri & the Original Choripán
Any information source you encounter will give you a similar confession: Nobody truly knows the origin of the word chimichurriPlaneta Joy (a thoroughly entertaining Spanish-language website for those of you who speak it) described the most common legend behind the name of this condiment (which is, indeed, a condiment and neither a marinade nor a cooking sauce). As the story goes, Jimmy Curry, an Englishman living in Argentina, prepared the sauce out of admiration of the Argentinean barbecue (asado). After he left the country, people kept referring to his sauce as the chimi (not Jimmy) churri (not Curry) sauce and continued making it to go with their asado.

As for the Choripán, this is a typical street sandwich from Argentina. Its preparation is straightforward, with only three key ingredients. As they say on Asado Argentina, "Chorizo + bread + chimichurri = Simplicity at its best." Argentinean chorizo (sausage) is made with red wine, garlic, paprika, and something spicy for a little kick (additional variations include the addition of cloves, cumin, or nutmeg), so this flavor can be transferred to other proteins to allude to the original meat's flavor profile.

Choosing the Recipe
Since I decided to make swordfish taste like Argentinean chorizo, I had to pull from a few different recipes to ultimately create my Swordipán. I was inspired by the seasonings in the chorizo recipe from OChef and extremely grateful for my friend's family Chimichurri recipe. To get my vegetable fix, I turned to the Hairy Bikers, a hilarious BBC cooking duo, who prepared some salads to go with a meal of empanadas that they made. The grapefruit and avocado salad had the perfect natural combination of oil and acid to lighten up the meal. As the Bikers say, "It's a brave man that makes a salad for a gaucho," because Argentinean cuisine is so meat happy. One normally doesn't hear "light" or "vegetarian" when discussing this cuisine. For me, though, that ship sailed the second I replaced sausage with fish!

Speaking of fish, I debated between two types of fish for this sandwich-- halibut and swordfish.  Both have a fairly mild flavor on their own (unlike salmon or trout) and they are both pretty firm and therefore resilient to all the treatment I would give them. They also both fall on the good end of the spectrum in terms of seafood sustainability. I try to consult the Seafood Watch guide when I cook fish to ensure that my choices are not going to have a harmful impact on the ocean ecosystem or my own body. By choosing your geographical region, the Monterey Bay Aquarium will give you a straightforward glance at the fish that can be caught or farmed sustainably and those that can't (or aren't). Ultimately I decided on swordfish for its steakier texture. I knew that it would hold up well to the strong spices that mimic chorizo, and it would shine despite the bread surrounding it.

Memorizing the Recipe
Since so much of this recipe was invented, it was easy to get it right (or at least not get it wrong). The Chimichurri is the standard dish that I knew I needed to memorize for future occasions, so I put most of my energy into that. Even so, it wasn't too tricky. Parsley is obvious, garlic is essential, mustard is the memorable, (not-so) secret ingredient, a few spices gave a kick, and there were two liquids, with twice as much oil as vinegar. Simple and lovely, and fantastically available in most people's kitchens.

The Verdict
I completely agree with "Simplicity at its best." This is one of the most relaxed meals I have in my Walking Cookbook repertoire. The Swordipán was completely balanced once we added a salad, and using fish made a street food-inspired dish quite healthy. The fish tasted nothing like chorizo, which was okay. The red wine and spice rub did, however, gave an earthy and smokey flavor to the fish. I was worried about the sandwich being too dry, which is why I put out the mayo. However, the swordfish was perfectly done after 10 1/2 minutes on the grill. It had a beautiful char on the outside and a tender, juicy inside texture. The Chimichurri had tang and freshness that was essential in such a hearty dish. The mustard in the Chimichurri gave some bite and a lot of seasoning to the sauce.

If I owned a burger joint, I would absolutely include this sandwich in my menu. It's filling, good for you, and has a mix of warm and cool and dark and bright, all coming together to make you sit back and say, "That was great!" No tricks necessary-- simple food never lets you down.

The Recipes

"Swordipán" Street Sandwiches with Chimichurri
from The Walking Cookbook
Yield: 8 sandwiches

  • 8 rolls (pan de agua, Kaiser, or any roll that is not too thick or dense)
  • 8 pieces Chorizo-Spiced Swordfish (see recipe below)
  • Olive oil for brushing the rolls
  • Mayonnaise (optional)
  • 3/4 cup of Euge's Chimichurri (see recipe below)


  • Split the rolls down the middle to make a top and bottom bun. Brush some olive oil on the cut side of each roll and place cut-side down on the grill pan. Press down on the roll pieces (or weigh them down with a grill weight) for 30 seconds and remove to a separate plate.
  • Serve in a "make your own" fashion or assemble the sandwiches by spreading 1-2 tbsp chimichurri on the roll, putting a thin layer of mayo on the bottom roll (optional, but gives good moisture), and placing a piece of swordfish in the middle. That's it!

If you set out all the ingredients, dinner guests can choose
how much Chimichurri they want or what size piece of fish they prefer

Euge's Chimichurri
adapted from the Sincovich Family Recipe
Yield: 3/4 cup

  • 3/4 cup parsley, stems included
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 8 tbsp vegetable oil (not EVOO because it´s too scented)
  • 4 tbsp vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
  • 1 tsp non-grainy mustard or grainy mustard made into a paste (As my friend says, "THIS IS THE FAMILY SECRET!!!!")
  • salt and pepper to taste (the mustard adds salt also)
  • 1 tsp Paprika, depending on whether you want to make it spicy or not, you can add more of this.


  • Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until thoroughly incorporated.

Tossing all the ingredients into the food processor
makes this a 30 second condiment
You can process the Chimichurri a little less if you want it
to have more texture, but be sure it all gets emulsified.

Chorizo-Spiced Swordfish
from the Walking Cookbook, with inspiration from OChef
Yield: 8 servings

  • 2 lb Swordfish steaks, skin removed and cut into fairly equal pieces
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 heaping tbsp nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper


  • Bring wine, crushed garlic, and cloves to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat and filter through a cloth or fine mesh strainer.
  • Let cool, transfer to a wide, shallow dish, and place swordfish steaks in the marinade. Coat on both sides, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours (you can leave it for up to 12 hours).
  • Meanwhile, prepare a spice rub by combining the nutmeg, paprika, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
  • Remove the fish from the marinade, blot with a towel, and drizzle on the oil. Add the spice rub and really massage it into the fish, coating both sides. Place on a dry plate.
  • Heat a cast iron grill pan until it barely starts to smoke. Place the pieces of swordfish on the grill, cover with a large sheet of foil, and let cook over medium heat for 6 1/2 minutes.
  • Using a pair of tongs, flip the fish over, cover again, and let cook for 4 minutes.
  • Remove the fish from the heat and place on a separate dish.
Be sure to get any leftover skin off of the swordfish.
See that little layer that's still there?
    Although the gross white stuff that oozes out of the fish in its first grilling stages is completely unappealing, it's completely edible and will not even be noticeable once you flip the fish and keep cooking. No need to worry.

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