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What Is Matambre?

By C. Mitchell
Updated May 16, 2024
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Matambre is an Argentinian beef dish that is made by rolling vegetables, eggs and savory ingredients such as sausage and spices in a flattened flank steak. The steak usually is slow cooked, either in a broth or over a low-fire grill, until the meat is just tender and the vegetables have softened. There are many matambre variations, many of which correspond to different regions and culinary traditions of Argentina and neighboring Uruguay. The dish also can be adapted for virtually any ingredients that a cook has on hand.

There are no fixed ingredients for matambre. Just the same, nearly all versions involve hard-boiled eggs and various vegetables, particularly bell peppers and onions. Most recipes call for raw vegetables, although some cooks sauté or parboil the greens quickly before beginning. All of the ingredients will have a chance to cook completely, but preparing the ingredients can enhance the overall flavor.

The defining feature of any matambre is the flank steak. A long, thin piece of meat usually works best, and cooks will often tenderize the steak with a meat mallet or other blunt object to ensure that it is a consistent, smooth texture across its entire surface. The meat usually is ready after it is uniformly flattened, but many cooks elect to rub it in olive oil or other marinades to add tenderness and seal in the moisture.

After the meat is prepared, cooks begin layering the other ingredients in its center. The idea usually is to create an even spread of vegetables, cheeses, egg and other meats, particularly bacon and sausage, across the flank steak’s surface. After this is achieved, the steak should be tightly rolled, jellyroll style, to create a thick log. To keep the stuffing from coming loose during cooking, cooks typically secure the log with butcher’s twine or other bake-safe string.

Matambre must cook for a long period of time — usually several hours, at least — for the flavors to simmer together. The most traditional way to cook the rolled stuffed flank steaks is over a fire. Cooks typically wrap the rolls in foil or place them in a deep, flame-proof pot to slow cook them in the flames. More modern cooks use barbecue grills for similar results.

Simmering the steak in a savory broth is another popular means of preparation. Here, the tied roll is submerged and boiled, often in a beef broth, until the meat is cooked and the flavors are set. Regardless of how it is prepared, matambre is nearly always served the same way: sliced thin, usually as an appetizer. It can be served hot or cold.

There is some controversy over the way that the dish came to be called matambre. One theory is that the name is a combination of the Spanish words matar, meaning “to kill,” and hambre, meaning “hunger.” According to this school of thought, the dish is a “hunger killer” both because of its richness and by virtue of its role as appetizer. A less-popular telling is that the word “matambre” is a variation of certain regional Argentinean words for “shoe leather,” which is supported by the tough, flat nature of the core flank steak.

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