Skirt Steak with Harissa and Chimichurri

Recipe from Cook With What You Have

Photo by John Valls


This dish combines two of Cook With What You Have Katherine Deumling’s favorite condiments/sauces. Both contain cumin and hot pepper, and the spicy heat of the harissa, thinned with red wine vinegar and a little olive oil, tenderizes the meat and allows it to absorb the other flavors. Serve this steak with rice, roasted potatoes or anything that will soak up the juices and chimichurri.

Serves 4

About 1-1/4 pounds Carman Ranch skirt steak, connective tissue removed

2 to 3 tablespoons harissa, depending on how spicy yours is

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive, grapeseed or sunflower oil

1 teaspoon salt


(There are many versions of this Argentinian sauce typically served with beef. Change the ratio of herbs to suit your tastes or what you have on hand)

1 cup finely chopped parsley

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup good olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more to taste)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix the harissa, vinegar, oil and salt in a small bowl. Pat the meet dry and lay it out on a sheet pan. Spread the steak evenly with the harissa mixture on both sides. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3-12 hours.

Stir the chimichurri ingredients together in a small bowl.

Heat a cast iron skillet, grill pan or heavy skillet over high heat. Remove the steak from the refrigerator and scrape off most of the marinade with the back of a knife. You don’t need to get it all. If your pan does not accommodate the whole piece, cut it in half. They cook quickly so you can cook them back-to-back.

Put the steak in the pan and turn the heat down to medium-high. Cook for about 3 minutes. Turn over and cook for an additional 2 minutes for medium rare. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of your steak. Err on the side of less time on the heat as this cut can get chewy if it’s cooked beyond medium rare. Remove from the pan and put on a cutting board and cover tightly with foil. Let rest for 5 minutes. Cut the meat against the grain, on the diagonal, into 1/2-inch or so strips. Serve hot or warm.


–inspired by

Harissa is a spicy paste/sauce common in Tunisia and Morocco and other countries of the Mahgreb. No two batches I make are ever quite the same. I use whatever dried and/or fresh peppers I have on hand. I’ve used dried Aci Sivri peppers (from Ayers Creek farm), dried New Mexico Chilies and several kinds of sweet and semi-hot fresh peppers–red bell peppers or roasters, Anaheim and poblano peppers and jalapeños even. You can use what you have and heat things up with red pepper flakes. It’s a flexible condiment/paste and will be delicious in many variations. Use roasted Anaheims or poblanos and sweet peppers and no dried peppers at all if that’s what you have. The freshly toasted cumin, coriander and caraway seeds are key though. Try to toast your own and grind in the moment if you can.

 A combination of peppers (see headnote) such as:

2 sweet red peppers, broiled until blistered then peeled and seeded

2 dried New Mexico chiles, covered with boiling water and soaked for 20-30 minutes then drained, deseeded and flesh scraped from tough skin

1 Jalapeño, Czech black or Serrano chile, broiled then seeded (or leave the seeds in for more heat)

If you don’t have any spicy peppers add 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2-3 roasted tomatoes or dried tomatoes (if dried, rehydrate with the peppers), and use more if you have fewer peppers

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

In a small dry skillet toast the seeds all together for about 2-3 minutes over medium heat until a shade darker and fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. Remove from heat and put in a mortar pestle or spice grinder. Let cool for a few minutes and then grind. I don’t grind them terribly fine and like the bit of texture they retain. I use a mortar and pestle.

Put the ground spices, the peeled, rehydrated (if using dried) peppers, tomatoes, garlic, salt and oil in the bowl of a food processor and process until fairly smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Store in small jars in the refrigerator. It will keep for about 10 days. Freeze it if you make a bigger batch or don’t go through it quickly enough.