I didn’t have a lot of expectations about the food when the Professor and I traveled to Ecuador a few years back. I knew enough to realize it was going to be more Spanish than Mexican, more potatoes than tortillas, but as far as specifics were concerned I was a clean slate.
I had no idea that soon enough I could add deep-fried guinea pig, fresh, sweet cheese served with donuts and hot chocolate, or grilled piranha to the list of things I’ve eaten (the guinea pig: actually very good if you don’t look at the face, the piranha: not so much).
One of the more pleasant culinary surprises on that trip was churrasco. In most parts of South America, churrasco refers to only the meat, almost always skirt steak, grilled over an open wood fire on enormous sword-like skewers.
An Ecuadorian churrasco means so much more. You will get the grilled steak, of course, but also a fried egg, steamed white rice, french fries, some sort of salad that involves half of an avocado, fried plantains, a chili sauce, and maybe (if you’re lucky) a fist-sized pile of pickled red onions. It is what we would call: truck stop deluxe. Layla’s made the whole thing here if you are interested.
I intended to make the dish in its entirety but got sidetracked by the homemade french fries and couldn’t bare to go any further. If you’ve never made your own fries, you must at least once in your life. Oh what a treat! Also, Ecuador….I highly recommend it.
- 3 jalapeños, stems removed and chopped (remove seeds if you want it less spicy)
- 1 1/2 cups cilantro leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds flank steak
- 2 large russet potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed
- 3 quarts vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 large eggs
- Combine all the ingredients in a blender with 2 tablespoons of water. Blend until smooth, adding more water a tablespoon at a time if too thick. Transfer to a sealed container and set aside. Salsa can be made up to a week in advance; keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Combine 1 tablespoon of oil, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Rub this mixture on all sides of the flank steak and let sit at room temperature while you make the fries. If leaving meat out for more than an hour freaks you out then stick it in the refrigerator and remove again about 30 minutes before cooking.
- Cut potatoes into eighths, or smaller if your potatoes are especially large, but basically you want to make steak fries. Cover fries with cold water and soak for at least 15 minutes or refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
- Line a baking sheet with paper towels and place potatoes on top. Dry thoroughly trying to remove as much water as possible.
- Heat oil over medium heat in a heavy pot and attach a deep-fat thermometer to the side. Once the oil temperature reaches 325°F, add the potatoes (you may have to do 2 batches depending on the size of your pot, but you want them to have some room to float around). Cook until a toothpick goes through easily, about 10-15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or bamboo skimmer and let drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Let cool completely. Meanwhile heat oven to 450°F and remove the steak from the refrigerator if you have put it in there.
- Once fries are completely cool, heat oil again over medium-high heat to 375°F. Add fries in three or four batches and fry until crisp and golden, about 2-3 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and season with salt.
- Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in a large cast iron skillet (or heavy, oven-safe skillet) over medium high heat. Once shimmering, add steak and brown (without touching) for 5 minutes. Flip and transfer to the oven to cook for 5 more minutes for medium-rare.
- Let rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes, while the steak is resting, heat the tablespoon of oil in a non stick skillet over medium heat. Once shimmering, crack eggs and fry, flip if you want them over easy and season with salt. Cut steak into 4 pieces and serve with the fries, eggs, and chili sauce.