A couple of years ago, I made a recipe from Bon Appetit for Flank Steak with Aji Sauce. It was terrific! Unfortunately, since then I have tried recreating that Aji Sauce several times with no luck. Perhaps we just had too much wine that night. But the same recipe has yielded completely different results every time. So of course I have been trying to recapture that magic with the Aji Sauce ever since.
Now to be completely honest, the version in this post is not exactly the magic I remember, but it is the closest so far. So I’m posting it in the hope that someone else will have better luck than I (and share their recipe!).
Here is a link to the original recipe from Bon Appetit:
Scroll down in the recipe and click on the Aji Sauce link.
Now Bon Appetit included this Aji Sauce as part of a Colombian meal. I found several references online claiming that Aji Sauce was a staple of Peruvian cuisine. The recipes are all quite different, but overall, it seems that Aji Sauce is similar to the Argentinian Chimichurri sauce.
The problem with the Bon Appetit recipe is the onions. If you follow the recipe exactly, it tastes like onion sauce. I have tried using only mild, sweet onions – same result. I tried reducing the onions by half – same result. For this recipe I dropped the onions completely and it was much better. The essence of the Cilantro and the Jalapeno with the Lime juice was a nice accompaniment to the meat. Here is the recipe I used:
1 bunch of Cilantro – destemmed
2 Jalapeno Peppers – cored and seeded
Juice of 1 Lime
2 TBL Olive Oil
I placed the Cilantro, Jalapeno and Lime Juice in a food processor and processed them until they were smooth. Then I added a couple of pinches of Sea Salt and about 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil. I played a little with the Salt and Oil until it tasted right. Then I put the Aji Sauce in a plastic container, covered it and put it in the refrigerator so the flavors would meld together.
Flank Steak is very good, but sometimes it can be a little tough. So I usually take a service fork and “stab” it all over several times to break up the fibers in the steak (this is also a great stress reliever – but do be careful). Next I rub the meat with Olive Oil on both sides, then add the seasoning.
For this Flank Steak I decided to use an Urban Accents blend called Mesa Rosa Chipotle. It is a little spicy and has that wonderful Chipotle flavor. I wanted something spicy to go with the cooling and refreshing flavors of the Aji Sauce. I coated the Flank Steak with the seasoning and let it rest.
I prepared the grill and when it was hot, put the Flank Steak on the grill. I typically use the initial heat of the grill to sear one side, then flip the meat to sear the other side. I generally cook red meat until a thermometer reads 130 degrees (the lowest level of Medium Rare). I then pull the meat, cover it and let it rest. This helps the meat retain it’s juices and it finishes up cooking.
The best way to cut a Flank Steak is “with the grain”. This gives you the most tender results.
Serve the Flank Steak with the Aji Sauce.
Now, not many wines go as well with beef as a Cabernet Sauvignon. The fat in the meat is offset by the Tannin’s in the red wine.
What is Tannin you ask? Well, think about a time when you were having tea, and you let the teabag sit in the water too long. Remember that drying sensation in your mouth? That is Tannin. Tannins come from the grape skins, which are left soaking in red wines during the wine making process. They are important to the aging potential of a red wine.
So I picked out a 2005 Behrens & Hitchcock Cabernet Sauvignon #13 from Napa Valley. I wanted a wine that still had some good fruit flavors, but that had mellowed a little with age, so a 2005 seemed about right (just a guess but it worked out).
Well first off, the steak and the wine went really well together. The spicy seasoning on the steak stood up to the strong fruit flavors of the wine. The Aji Sauce was much better than my last attempt. However, the Lime juice was a little overwhelming. Next time I think I would start with the juice of 1/2 of a lime, then add more gradually until it tasted right. The Cilantro flavor also was a good match with the spicy flavors of the meat and worked somehow with the wine. I also might add back in just a little chopped onion, maybe just a small bunch of green onions. Whatever onion additions I do however, will start with just a little, adding more as I go along.
Overall, as close to the original Aji Sauce magic as I have come so far. But I will keep trying. You should too, and let me know if you find the magic combination – then share!