Chimi-Love

by Matt on August 21, 2007

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Would you like to see me whimper and wince? Then ask me to join you on
official Gourmet Magazine business in July but instruct me to keep it
under wraps until the September issue hits the stands. Luckily I’m
actually very good with discretion and secrets. But it gets hard when
you discover something in the process that you instantly fall in love
with and can’t disclose it. Until now, that is.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Gourmet_coverBlessed by a temporary afternoon reprieve from the hot humid weather, I
spent a Saturday afternoon running around with my friend Marisa while
in New York City last month. As Chief Research Editor for Gourmet
Magazine she asked if I’d join her as she fact-checked a few locations
for an upcoming story. Being the professional editor that she is I was
only allowed to know we were checking addresses, tasting some food and
nothing more. However, after stopping by a few taco trucks a developing
sense of the subject matter became quite obvious. And now that the
September issue is out and I’ve read Robb Walsh’s feature on taco
trucks and a story on Dominican food from Junot Diaz I know exactly
what we were doing.

While I’ve only recently been introduced to Dominican food, tacos are in my
DNA. Combine one of my favorite foods with convenience and portability
and you’ve created a perfect experience. That’s why I love taco trucks;
it’s a culinary experience set in an environment that strips away any
sense of pretense or romance. Focus on the tacos and the sights and
sounds of everyday life become the setting. It’s an act I appreciate
yet one I clearly don’t take advantage of enough. It seems that here in
Los Angeles we’re always in our cars, zipping from point A to point B.
I simply must break this sad pattern and hit those trucks! Thank you
Mr. Walsh, as always.

Tacohorchata

But back to New York. We stopped at Tacos Express at 145th and Broadway
for tacos al pastor, washed down by a tepid horchata as we sat on steps
and shared some decent Mexican food. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a
big boy and can easily pound down a few tacos; it took great strength
to sample and not gorge myself that afternoon.

After checking intersections of a few places in Washington Heights
(taco trucks don’t have street addresses but apparently some have web
sites!) we made our way to the Bronx. The last on the list to check was
a Chimichurri truck on the corner of Msgr Francis J Kett and W 204th
Street. A Chimichurri Truck? Truck? It was a phrase that instantly
aroused and confused me. Having spent time in Argentina I thought I
knew chimichurri, the flavorful mixture of olive oil, garlic and herbs
that is a condiment for grilled meats. What I was about to discover was
something just as brilliant and delicious, something that left me
begging for more.

The Dominican Chimichurri.

We all have those food moments, don’t we? Those ever-important moments
of culinary discovery. Ok, perhaps you’re a chef or super well-traveled
and know all there is to know, but this boy is still finding so many
things out there that continually amaze me. And when we make those
discoveries do we curse the gods for keeping the food in question away
for so long and leaving our encounter to chance? Or do we praise them
for finally putting us together? I’m still trying to figure that out–
I’ll get back to you on that one.

So, that Chimichurri. Latin, yes, but this Dominican delight has
nothing to do with its Argentine counterpart other than sharing a name.
In the simplest of terms chimichurri is a Dominican hamburger. But a
burger of the highest, messiest order and one that left me swooning and
pining and all those other hyperbolic terms we love to use. Imagine a
soft bun, a patty, grilled tomatoes and onions, cabbage (sometimes
quickly pickled) and dollops of mayonnaise and ketchup. It’s messy,
greasy, and one of the tastiest things to pass my lips in such a long
time.

Cg

The next day, while having a Sunday afternoon beer in the East Village
with my sister, brother-in-law and friend Carolina, I let it slip that
I discovered a Chimichurri.

“What were you doing in my neighbrhood?” Carolina asked. I told her I
was under a self-imposed order of secrecy about the details but that I
could reveal my new obsession with this messy burger.

“Ah! You’ve discovered the pleasures of Chimis!” announced Carolina,
and with that she graciously took me under her wing and gave me some
background about my new favorite snack. Born in New York and raised in the Dominican Republic before returning to NYC, I met Caro through my friend Lito in San
Francisco. As we drank Hefeweizen and I asked a million questions, I
realized this was all too good to be true. I’ve discovered one of the
world’s best foods and I have my own personal culinary and cultural
attaché? Pinch me!

Carolina informed me that chimichurri trucks are common in Santo
Domingo and easily found all along El Malecon, the avenue that runs
along the ocean. She also tells me that they are easy to find in New
York, particularly in the South Bronx and Washington Heights, but we
both lamented that I may not have much luck back in Los Angeles. I told
her that I’d have to find a recipe and make it at home because this
chimi business was too good to only live in a memory. That’s when Caro
told me that she doesn’t make them at home. But then again why would
you when they’re so easy to find?

“For me, part of the charm of chimis is getting one in the street at 3
am. It’s perfect post-prandial food – greasy, tasty and a challenge to
your motor skills (to avoid the inevitable drips on your clothes),” she
said.

Dripping messy shirts? Greasy? 3 am? It’s like she was seducing me with her words!

I’ve since learned to create a pretty close stand-in of the Chimichurri
burger with a few alterations. And while it’s not the same as standing
on the street at 1am or sharing one with my friend Marisa on a train
platform in Washington Heights and sipping on a hyper-sweetened fruit
drink, it does come pretty damn close. And for that I’m thankful.

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Chimichurri_for_blog

Chimichurri: A Dominican Hamburger

adapted from Tía Clara’s site at Cocina Dominicana with gracious advice from Carolina!

It was a bit of a hunt to find recipes for this online in English,
but it’s certainly not difficult to make. Messy is key, and blending
the sauce ahead of time makes for easy assembly. This month’s Gourmet
Magazine’s recipe instructs a quick sauté of the cabbage but it will
make a huge tasty difference if you do a very quick pickle of the
cabbage in vinegar ahead of time. But it’s not necessary.


Ingredients

4 hamburger buns
2 pounds of ground beef
1/2 teaspoon of garlic, crushed
1 large onion, sliced into rings
1 large onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 large tomatoes, sliced
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons of oil
salt and pepper
oregano
ketchup
mayonnaise

Method

1. Mix meat, worcestershire sauce, garlic, onion cubes, bell pepper,
and add a pinch of salt, a pinch of oregano and a pinch of pepper.
Divide meat into four portions and form 4 patties. Brush a stove-top
grill with some of the oil and heat. Grill the patties, rotating until
they are well done.

2. Briefly grill tomatoes and onion rings. Turn down the heat at its
minimun and briefly cook the cabbage. Reapply some oil to the grill and
warm up the bread.

3. Assemble the hamburger and garnish with ketchup and mayonnaise.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve August 21, 2007 at 9:37 am

oh the memories.
in jr. high school you weren’t cool unless you got to leave campus to go to the taco truck. they made such good quesadillas and such. i need to eat latin food more often. i love it so much.

Melissa August 21, 2007 at 9:46 am

Ohhhhh Matt, you’re killing me! Taco trucks and horchata and chimichurris (which I had never heard of before either, so thank you!) and doing research for GOURMET magazine…

Sigh. Can we trade lives for just an hour?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) August 21, 2007 at 9:53 am

Why have I never heard of this????? No matter….I know what’s for dinner tonight! Thank you!

Sharon Gerhardt August 21, 2007 at 9:58 am

I adore your writing. I also despise it because I am sitting at my desk craving a
Chimichrri burger!
Can’t wait to try tonight!
Missed your writing last week – glad you are back!

Anita August 21, 2007 at 12:42 pm

I’m drooling.

caro August 22, 2007 at 8:45 am

Damn, that is the prettiest chimi I’ve ever seen in my life. Where are the grease-stained shirts?? Thanks for making me look cute, too!

Caley August 22, 2007 at 10:07 am

I really must try some tacos in Washington Heights before I leave the city.

Mariel Morris August 22, 2007 at 10:58 am

Matt, I gotta tell you, I love reading your blog and think you are the coolest blogger and food enthusiast I know! Thanks for writing so many inspiring posts with wonderful and colorful pictures. As always, you put a big smile on my face.

Mariel :)

180/360 August 22, 2007 at 11:21 am

Hmmm… interesting. I look forward to trying them. I’ve made Argentinian chimichurri but never heard of this! Thanks for sharing.

PS. I’m always a little scared to eat from taco trucks.

April August 23, 2007 at 7:13 am

SO… I get my copy of Gormet in the mail and of course I think..YUM…actually I said it out loud.
I am not sure why,but it made me think of your site…maybe the color or because I really never thought much about food photos before I found you online. I am just happy that two of my fav. things have come together….

Christine (myplateoryours) August 26, 2007 at 10:16 am

I’ve been slowly savoring this issue of Gourmet. Lucky you to have been involved!

zainab August 26, 2007 at 6:27 pm

elegant website and beautiful pictures.

Seth August 29, 2007 at 6:46 pm

This after I just had the best burger Los Angeles has to offer only a day ago! The place is in Beverly Hills. It’s called Burger 90210. Worst name for anything ever. They should’ve called it “Money, Burgers, and more Money” or something. But seriously, less than $10 for the best burger I’ve had in L.A. with fries and a drink. If you haven’t, give it a try.

Of course, no burger I’ve had will ever compete with Port of Call in my hometown of New Orleans, but they age their own beef. Compared to that, most burgers entirely cease to exist. The chimichurri certainly looks drippalicious enough, though.

tannaz September 7, 2007 at 5:51 pm

i always find it kinda quaint when new yorker friends talk about mexican food over there. but then again, we can’t hold a candle to them when it comes to dominican food…so i guess it balances out. this looks amazing. i will be craving one at 1:30am tonight. then once again tomorrow.

Mattias September 9, 2007 at 9:38 pm

Matt:………..hello im a dominican chef and i only said theres are greats……………

anita September 10, 2007 at 12:08 am

OK, we made these last night for dinner and — although I think I am STILL digesting them — I gotta say these are going into rotation. Just not too often, or I will be even more gorda than I already am.

Photographic evidence here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/marriedwithdinner/1354302610/

I’m glad you warned us they’d be messy! Next time I think we’ll chop the veggies a bit smaller, but otherwise the recipe is perfect.

Aunt Clara November 4, 2007 at 3:32 pm

Wow! I have been mentioned by Matt! What an honor, and I mean it. More satisfying than an article in a paper.

Anyways, the recipe actually comes from our English site dominicancooking.com. You’ve presented this dish in a dignified but honest way. That’s why I’ve been your Flickr groupie for so long.

ruth butler October 14, 2008 at 9:05 am

Being a dominican with 3 grown very much american sons, we went on vacation this year to La Romana and I ask my sons if they wanted to try it, they were hook, the only did they try the ground beef one, but also chopped pork loin, chicked and even ham and egg chimi, they LOVED IT, after that first day they wanted to go everyday and each got 2 sandwiches with the Famous Chinola Juice.

Lokitaa December 1, 2008 at 3:02 pm

gosh whenever i hear some1 talk about it or i read it i crave 1 so badlyy. im dominican nd chimichurris r seriously the best burgers in the world a thousand times better than mcdonalds or burger king nd lucky 4 me i can find them right around the corner =]

Yeimi March 1, 2009 at 4:05 am

WOW . . . I CAN’T REMEMBER THE LAST TIME I ATE A CHIMICHURRI. . . CAN’T WAIT TO TRY IT THIS SUMMER, THEY ARE DELISH!!!

Lucia April 26, 2009 at 1:59 am

Hey, just thought I should let you know you spelled Melecon wrong… its El Malecon. Awesome article regardless

Indiana Gividen October 15, 2009 at 10:57 pm

I lived in the Dominican Republic for a few years and NO one called them Chimichurri.

It is a Chimi.

No Churri.

Peter Pedal December 20, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Well Indiana… could be that Chimichurri is a long word, so they use an abbreviated version.

This Chimichurri burger sure sounds gooooood! I’m happy to get a recipe so I can try it myself… (In Denmark there are very few Dominicans, so it would be more than difficult to have one, unless you’re talented with a knife, skillet and grill).

Indiana Gividen December 21, 2009 at 1:42 am
Tree February 4, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Very nice picture and recipe. Thanks for making me crave one! I haven’t had a chimi in years.

For the record, I was born and raised in the Dom. Rep. and the name is chimichurri, and chimi for short.

rachel May 15, 2012 at 10:08 am

I haven’t stopped making these burgers for family and friends since 2007. No joke.

These are serious afternoon crowd-pleasers hanging pool side or in a warm summery night’s breeze.

THANK YOU!

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