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The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke



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Matambre means “Hunger Killer” and is very popular in South America. I’ve made these several times now and they are always a big hit. They are not only tasty, but visually appealing as well. They are good hot or cold and you can serve them with a sauce or they taste great on their own. You owe it to yourself to try one of these.
First you must start off with a Skirt or Flank steak. The Flank steak is a bit bigger so this is my first choice. The next trick is to butterfly an already thin cut of meat. Since I need my fingers to help make my living, I always ask the butcher to do it.  It pays to cultivate a relationship with your butcher. I try to go to the butcher’s shop when things aren’t too busy and I try to get the same person to wait on me. I tell him how my last meat came out and sometimes will bring a photo or two. Last year when I made Matambre, I had to ask the butcher to butterfly it . The year when I asked about flank steak, the butcher picked me out a cut just the right size and asked me if he should butterfly it.
The recipe I used was from Steven Raichlen’s
HOW TO GRILL and it called for ham, kielbasa, carrots, celery, red pepper, & Romano cheese as the fillings. I have found that the quantities called for in this recipe make about twice as much as I need. Either their steak is significantly bigger than what I’m getting, or the quantities are off. This past weekend I was actually making two Matambres. I forgot my own advice about the quantities and ended up with enough fillings that I bought a 3rd steak to use up the surplus. Just remember if you use the How to Grill recipe, you can buy less of the fillings than what is called for,  or better yet buy two steaks.

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The prep for this is not particularly hard but it is time intensive. I always start early when prepping for this meal and it always takes about twice as long as I expect. This time I added a new tool to my arsenal:  a Zyliss Ez-slice mandolin slicer. One big advantage to using the mandolin slicer, was I got nice even sized 1/4” x 1/4” (0.66 x 0.66 cm) strips. These pack more densely than irregularly shaped strips.  The slicer  did help cut down on the time somewhat.  But this tool is designed more for slicing small round vegetables, than long thin ones.

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I really had to wing it to get the mandolin slicer to slice my fillings. The julienne blades didn’t work well at all on the celery or carrots, they tended to drift off course. I ended up slicing the items twice using the regular slicing blade. The first pass created 1/4” thick slices. I then turned those slices 90 degrees and ran them through again to create the 1/4” x 1/4” (0.66 x 0.66 cm) strips This was definitely not “As Seen on TV” or how the tool was intended to be used. The pusher or feed chute don’t do you any good for this type of slicing. I had to be very careful hand holding these slices. I will need to fashion a push stick out of a food safe material to help push the food through the slicer. The slicer worked well on the pepper, carrots and celery. It was partially successful on the romano cheese & kielbasa, some slices tended to tear. I used a knife for the ham.

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When all of the slicing is done you’re in the home stretch. You lay out a piece of aluminum foil about the depth of your counter. Next you lay out some strips of bacon running side to side about 1” (2.5 cm) apart. The flank steak is laid on top of the bacon and is seasoned. The fillings are laid in rows in a repeating pattern, stopping 2” (5 cm) before the end of the steak. The foil is folded back so it lines up with the beginning of the steak. The foil and steak and all the fillings are rolled up forming a pinwheel of steak and fillings. The ends of the foil are twisted closed and the roast is tied to help it hold it’s shape. The foil is punctured on all sides to help release steam.

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The Matambre is placed on the grill, which is set up for indirect  grilling. The burners are lit on the two ends of the grill, while the roast is placed on the middle of the grill where there are no lit burners. The burners were adjusted to achieve a grate temperature of 350 degrees (175 C). Essentially the grill is being used as an outdoor oven. The roast takes about two hours to reach it’s final temperature of 180 degrees. This roast creates quite a bit of drippings, particularly when the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees (71 C). For that reason I’d installed a foil drip pan under the grill grate. The roast is turned every 20 minutes until it is completed.

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The meat is allowed to rest before slicing. The best way to slice this  up is to use an electric knife. The recipe called for a ten minute rest before slicing. The first time I made this I had trouble with the meat falling apart while being sliced. The meat sliced up with no problems after a 15 minute rest. Another thing that helped was making the slices slightly thicker than the 1/2” (1.25 cm) called for.

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Matambre can be served hot or cold, with or without a sauce. The meat is very tender and the fillings are just the right blend of tender yet firm. Each bite contains a different combination of fillings, and is a different taste sensation. You really owe it to yourself to try a Matambre. This meal involves a quite a bit of prep, but cooking it couldn’t be easier. It looks and tastes like a million dollars. I’m looking forward to trying other fillings in future Matambres.


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