Kitchen Catastrophe 28 – MATAMBRE

  As I have remarked before, I studied Spanish for several years back in High School. And I’ve always been fond of the Spanish stereotype: a hot-blooded, passionate man who cares more for wine and women than payments and politics. Further, I’ve been fond of many interesting Spanish words and phrases one encounters learning the language. “Anteayer” for instance, literally translates as “beforeyesterday”, and means, well, “the day before yesterday.” “Te Quiero” directly translates as “I want you”, but is also used in a way every person in their twenties can understand “I like-like you”. Not just “like”, but not quite “love”. “Huevón” means “ball dragger” as in “a guy so lazy/stupid his balls drag”, meaning someone like Homer Simpson or Peter Griffin, or your stoner friend who can’t get up before noon.

You know the guy. His name is Peter, but he goes by Petey, or Richard-Richie.

But one of my favorite ones has always been “Matambre”. Directly translated: “Kill-Hunger” But this doesn’t refer to the growing need to slay serial killers feel. Oh no, it means “Hunger Killer” and refers to one of the hardest to describe meals I’ve encountered. Let’s dive in.

A rose by any other name would be tough to eat.

Now, I’ve used some reaaally bad ways to describe this meal. “A meat cinnamon roll”. “Like, you know a pumpkin roll? (No.) Shit. Well, like that, but with meat.” “A wrapped up beach towel of meat with veggies and more meat trapped in the folds.”

I have trouble describing spirals, is really the take-away.

A Meat Hypnotist’s wheel! A flushed toilet of food! LOOK, SHAPES ARE HARD.

But yeah, it’s an Argentinean meal. Well, TECHNICALLY, (because nothing in food etymology is as simple as you think) it’s the name of a cut of meat, which is basically the same as flank steak. The dish is, formally “Matambre arollado” (“Rolled Matambre”), but nowadays the rolled version is the default, so it’s just called “matambre”. The closest English equivalent is Turkey, where the bird was named for the country, because it was Turkish traders that started shipping them from the Americas. So we called them “Those Turkey birds”. You can also see this in French which called them “Dinde”, or “d’ Inde,” meaning “from India”. The Portuguese literally call Turkeys “Peru”.

I just call them “ridiculous”.

Jesus, I have gone full word nerd today. Let’s move on before I accidentally write a book of etymologies and never get any cooking done. Which is a disturbing mix of focused and forgetful that perfectly encapsulates my mental processes. ANYWHO, MEAT SPIRAL.

So, the first step is to get some flank steak. You want something in the two pound range, preferably around ten inches long. Then again, what lady doesn’t? Haha! Though, honestly, that sounds incredibly painful. Especially since some dick-volume algebra tells me he’d have to as wide as a water bottle to get that weight with that length.

I just spent 10 minutes learning “dick-volume algebra” to make that joke accurate. I’m either living a terrible life, or a fantastic one.

Anyway take your slab of steak, and butterfly it. Now, I’m going to level with you: Butterflying foods tends to make me a little panicky. The IDEA is that, by cutting it in half and spreading it out, we get more surface area, so things will cook faster, or we can make pockets to store food. I just always worry I’m going to screw it up. If you’re like me, you will be happy to learn it’s pretty damn easy. You might have to crouch once or twice to check, but really, once you get the cut going, the meat kind of pushes your blade the right way. Eventually, you end up with something close to a square.

If he thinks this is a square, spirals aren’t the only shape he’s bad at.

Now comes the part where you can have the most fun: the fillings. What goes into a matambre is, in the main, dealer’s choice. Hardboiled eggs show up a lot, as do carrots, spinach, and cheese. Spices of some sort are always included. My recipe comes from the Barbecue Bible, and used sliced asiago, beef sausage, carrots, bell peppers, and some pepper and herbs. You just lay them out on the meat in whatever order pleases you, until you’re about 3” from the end, or you run out of toppings.

And for those of you about to point out my error: They’re toppings for now. When you’re done, they become fillings.

The next step was a bit weird: wrapping the meat. Now, my family makes pumpkin rolls (a variety of “jelly rolls”, I understand) every thanksgiving/Christmas.  So I’m not unfamiliar with the concept of rolling a food closed. But the filling in this is much more chunky and inflexible than I’m used to. I’ll admit, I tried three or so time to roll it, with no success. I got frustrated, stepped back, looked up a guide, snapped “That’s not helpful” at my phone when I saw it, and then proceeded to do it right, despite changing nothing.

I wish I could say there was some lesson there about believing in yourself, but it was seriously just like putting in a USB stick “No. No. No. Okay, this is literally impossible. Oh look, it worked.” You must appease the quantum gods or something, I guess.  Anywho, I wrapped up my steak, and had some bacon on the outside, and then proceeded to make my biggest mistake.

Tearing the foil? That seems fairly negligible.

See, the directions say, once you roll up the steak, to pin it shut with toothpicks or something, and then wrap it tightly in tin foil. I said “Well, if we’re wrapping it tightly, what the hell are the toothpicks for? Screw ‘em.” This is because, again, I just don’t seem to know how SPIRALS works. Yes, the wrap kept the outside together. But without the pick holding the meat, mine retracted, as you’ll see later. (As a brief aside, am I the only one noting the amount of strangely sexually suggestive words/phrases I’m running into in this post? “My meat retracted”, “I tried a couple time with no success, and then did it right”, “DICK VOLUME ALGEBRA”? This is weird.)

Anyway, you cook the meat on indirect grilling for 1.5-2 hours. Indirect grilling means that the meat doesn’t sit over the fire, but in another part of the grill. My family has a hot smoker, which can be used for the same effect. We then left the house to drink, before coming home. Pulling the matambre out, and opening it up, we saw my shame.

That does look…shameful, yes.

Still, my dad said it was pretty good, and I liked it. I ate it with a grilled caramelized Pineapple I made, but sadly don’t have time to fill you in on. Heh. “Fill you in.” Seriously, what is with the sex jokes today? I’m blaming Spain.

If you like the post, do, you know whatever. Share it, like it, laugh silently to yourself alone in your computer room before going back to Facebook. You know, whatever floats your boat.

It looks much better from this angle, but you can more easily see how bad I am at spirals.




Serves 4


1 flank steak, 1.5-2 lbs, butterflied.

Salt and pepper

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp dried Sage

½ red bell pepper and ½ green bell pepper, stemmed and seeded.

1 piece Romano chese (6 oz)

1 piece kielbasa sausage (6 oz)

1 carrot, peeled

6 slices bacon.


  1. Preheat grill to medium low, and set up for indirect grilling. (Generally, this means getting all the heat sources on one side, or on either side of where you intend to cook.)
  2. Cut the peppers, cheese, and sausage into ½” strips. Quarter the carrots, lengthwise. Layout a sheet of aluminum foil roughly 24” by 24”, and lay the bacon down on it, running parallel with the edge of your working surface. Then lay the steak on top of the bacon, with the grain running perpendicular.
  3. Place your fillings in rows, one by one, going up the steak.
  4. Once the fillings are placed, take the edge of the steak nearest you, and roll the steak up. Then, pin the steak shut with a toothpick, then wrap the bundle in the foil.
  5. Put the foil package on the grill, and cook ninety minutes to two hours. Let sit 10 minutes, slice and serve.