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Life Before and After Choripán

I have many childhood memories of being cuddled between my two older brothers in the back seat of a Peugeot 504. It was a very popular car in Argentina at the time, and Mom always drove one. This particular memory is different though, special. It would turn out to be one of the most important pit stops of my young culinary life.

I’m six or seven years old, and we’re in Córdoba, about 800 kilometers north of Buenos Aires. Our cousins, Guille and Dani, are navigating us through a mountainous stretch of highway. The road from Córdoba City to Carlos Paz is rich with beautiful scenery, rolling plains, olive groves and vineyards. Every kilometer or so, a man sits on the side of the road with a grill and a sign: “Choripán – 1 Peso.” Our cousins spin stories while they drive, tempting us with all of the hunting, camping, and grilling we are about to enjoy over the next few days. I’m in heaven and we haven’t even reached our destination. As I’ve come to learn in moments like this, life is all about the delicious surprises on the way to where you think you’re going.

The car pulls over on the side of the road.

We’re here? I think to myself.

Yes and no.

We haven’t reached our vacation property yet, but we are somewhere life changing.

As we step from the pavement onto the gravel roadside, we are greeted by a man, the asador, or grill master. He stands behind a pile of wood and charcoal, topped with a small, old grill, held together by strings of wire. The asador mans its flames, keeping the rickety contraption together with his experienced will.

“Hello,” the man says in a warm, friendly voice with the distinctive, sing song accent of the region.

“We are about to have the very best Choripán anywhere,” Dani tells us.

“The rest of the trip is all downhill from here boys, sorry!” Guille confirms.

The man already has a row of sausages cooking on the grill. He now slaps a few baguettes next to them. After the perfect amount of time, he slices five sausages in half, lays them on the baguettes, slathers green sauce on them, and folds the baguettes over the meat.

Go for it! He signals us with his eyes.

With that first, incredible bite, I discovered the wonders of Choripán and Chimichurri all at once. The rich depth of the chorizo was enhanced by the grill’s smoked char. The vinegar in the Chimichurri provided the perfect tangy burst, while the oil coated the rustic baguette with nuance and umami. The herbs and garlic brightened the richness of the chorizo and rounded the flavors with an herbaceous, sweet finish. The mild, crusty bread supported the rich, intense complexity of the meat and sauce.

Mind. Blown.

Every other Choripán I’ve eaten has been measured against that original one, enjoyed on the side of the road in the province where they’re known for this simple yet unforgettable delicacy. And it’s not just me who has lived this experience, either. Most other Argentinians have a similar, crucial moment in their culinary heritage.

Choripán consists of bread, sausage and Chimichurri. There’s literally nothing else to it. No mayo. No lettuce. What makes each sandwich great rests on three things alone: the quality of the bread and sausage, and off course, the chimichurri. This sandwich is a wonderful opportunity to present a dish that is truly authentic to Argentina while being a simple, elegant showcase for Chimichurri itself.

With grilling season upon us, now is the moment to recreate a traditional Choripán in your own home. If possible, go to a local bakery where they bake their baguettes on the premises. If buying at a grocery store, try to find one that does not have small regular dots on the underside, as these mean the bread was mass produced and will not have the same exquisite texture and flavor as one made by hand. Similarly, baguettes with an irregularly colored crust are generally hand made and better.

When choosing chorizo, again, go to a specialty market if possible. If not, try to get your sausage from a meat counter, so you can discuss the pros and cons of each variety with the butcher on hand. You’re looking for a sausage with a good deal of fat, so it will grill up moist and flavorful without becoming too dry.

And then, of course, top it all with Gardel’s Chimichurri. Our family recipe is a sublime interpretation of the classic Argentinian sauce and will give your Choripán the perfect finishing touch. You might say it’s been my life’s journey, since this first incredible Choripán, to bring our Gardel’s Chimichurri to you.

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