Inspired Eats - Hangar Steak with Chimichurri

Introducing - Inspired Eats! Our new column in which readers send us their pairing dilemmas, and our Liquid Consultant, Jens Kerger, will produce cocktail pairing suggestions. These will tailor to different scenarios, for casual dining in a local bar/restaurant, as well as more formal settings, and recipes to try at home with certain dishes. Prepping for a dinner party and want to dazzle your guests? Getting bar snacks at your local and trying to figure out what to order with a slightly limited back bar served up by a more “beer and shots” kind of bartender? Or is the world your oyster? In fact, what the heck do you order with oysters anyway?

Here’s how it works: Just send in your dish/menu ideas and we’ll publish corresponding drinks. The more details you give us to work with, the better the drink(s) will match and enclosing a photograph would be splendid. By the way, we’ll leave it up to reader discretion whether to disclose the name of the establishment in which the challenge takes place, though we’d still like to know your global location to have a sense of what can be found there.

Note: these are not wine or beer pairings, only cocktails. While a good wine is always good company to a meal, the whole dish might, at times, call for a little more complexity of flavor than a wine by itself will offer. Likewise with beer. Also, since these types of scenarios can be found in many other publications, let’s avoid the “been there, drunk that” and reach for inspired drinks!

To make questions accessible for everyone to see - we’d prefer our readers to chime in! You can reach us on Twitter via @TheAlcoholProf  or directly to Jens @furcht_bar. For longer text we recommend twitlonger. If you're not that social media-inclined, just send an email directly to Jens.

For our first challenge, our very own Editor in Chief, Amanda Schuster, was eating at South’s Pub in New York City. Though they had recently started an excellent new cocktail menu, she wasn’t sure if the offerings on it would be appropriate for the dish she had ordered - a familiar dish, but also a challenging one with layers of both bright and rich flavors.

Hangar steak, medium rare, with chimichurri sauce, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach.

courtesy of louisut /
courtesy of louisut /

First off the dish is Argentinian inspired, which poses a problem in itself: for one Argentina doesn’t really have a national spirit (in boozy terms, they’re quite a spiritful people), for another their drinking palate is completely different to ours (North America, Europe, Australia). On the other hand the sauteed spinach adds a layer of taste to the whole dish that is not far from, but quite different to the rest of the dish. Hence, the accompanying drink would have to address these feats.

After telling a friend about the idea he hit me square in the face with an answer so obvious and so straight it should’ve been mine: Why not try a dry Martini? Dry being about 3:1.

Of course a fine gin would go great with the herbs in the chimichurri as well as the spinach and just a hint of vermouth to round it off. When you chose the Martini make sure to use the right gin. A more spicy chimichurri would call for a strong gin - say Plymouth or even Plymouth Navy Strength - while a mild chimichurri totally agrees with a mild gin e.g.: The Botanist. The doneness of the steak is an issue too. The Martini with dry vermouth is great with a medium well or a well done steak, but I’d much rather have a Martinez in the covers of Antica for a rare to medium steak. But that’s just personal preference.

To really pay respect to the Argentinian origin of the dish, I first thought of Pisco - I know, it’s Peruvian/Chilenian, though a Pisco Sour with a sugar rim (the Argentinian way) didn’t seem the right choice for a Steak with chimichurri. The Argentinians love a well made Brandy Alexander, though their fondness for dulce de leche*1 might not be shared by a not so sweet palate. Then it hit me: Yerba Mate. Argentina is quite well known for this fabulous tea and we shall use it to make a fine drink to accompany our steak on a hot, damp summer’s eve.

So, if you’re out dining or you’re unsure what the local bar (might be the home bar as well) can come up with just go with the Martini/Martinez, but if you wanna get your hands dirty before you treat your tastebuds here’s what you could do:

Argentinian Lemonade

- 40ml (1 ⅓oz) semi-dry red wine

- 40ml (1 ⅓oz) chilled Mate tea*2

- tonic water to fill

- lemon zest and a sprig of thyme

Method: Add all the liquids in a highball glass over cracked ice and give a gentle stir. Add the thyme sprig, twist the lemon zest over it and discard.

The Mate tea will go excellent with the herbs used to make chimichurri, underlined by the the sprig of thyme, while the wine will pay its respect to the well prepared steak. And you’ll thank me for the use of tonic, when you use that drink at your next summer BBQ. If you want the drink to be a little lighter, just use soda water instead of tonic. If you want more depth, use port instead of red wine and keep the tonic.

*1: Dulce de leche is a ridiculously sweet concoction of milk (with the occasional addition of cream), sugar and vanilla. The Argentinians will substitute this for cream in their Brandy Alexanders.

*2: Chilled Mate tea: For ½ liter (~17fl oz) use 2g (~7oz) or 1 tea ball Mate tea. Allow to infuse for no longer than 5 minutes. Then quickly chill the tea to avoid bitterness by pouring it over cracked ice once or twice.

We want to hear from you! Do you have other suggestions? Have you found yourself in a similar chimichurri-related conundrum and want to share your experience? Please share in our comments. And as mentioned above, we'd love more pairing questions, so feel free to to tweet or email us. Cheers!