The Frugal Foodie: BLT Steak’s Victor Albisu

Lighting up the grill for a steak dinner doesn’t have to set your wallet on fire. BLT’s Victor Albisu shows us how to make a four-person steak dinner for less than $25.

BLT Steak chef Victor Albisu's mixed grill. To save money, he shopped at a small Latino market in Falls Church.

>> For more photos of Albisu grilling, click here

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“It’s primal. It’s simple,” says Victor Albisu, explaining the beauty of barbecuing. Standing over a hot grill laden with meat and vegetables, it certainly feels that way.

The BLT Steak chef accepted the Frugal Foodie challenge to make a four-person steak dinner for less than $25—not including pantry items.

Albisu suggests meeting at Plaza Latina, a small market in Falls Church where he knew we could get good-quality but inexpensive meat and produce. Of course, knowing the owner helps, too—that’d be Albisu’s mother.

He buys a flank steak, four chorizo sausages, short ribs, corn, peppers, onion, parsley, and more for $27.50. And there’s no family discount.

Back at my apartment, Albisu gets to work. He seasons the steak and short ribs with olive oil, crushed whole garlic cloves, salt, and pepper and lets them sit while he starts the chimichurri, a piquant, parsley-based Argentinean sauce.

Albisu chops garlic, onion, jalapeño, red bell pepper, cilantro, and parsley, then seasons it all with oregano, red chili pepper, cumin, salt, and pepper. He mixes in some red-wine vinegar and olive oil, then has me try a bite.

“I’m going to tell you a family secret,” Albisu says. With that, he takes a little water he boiled in my kettle and adds it to the sauce. The hot water, he explains, blanches and relaxes the parsley. He has me try another taste. It’s still zesty and bright, but the bite is gone.

With the chimichurri finished, we go outside to grill the meat and vegetables. When my charcoal grill is medium-hot, Albisu arranges the ingredients over the grates. After about 20 minutes, he pulls everything off and we head inside. Back in the kitchen, Albisu slices open a piece of crusty bread, cuts half a chorizo down the middle, spreads the chimichurri on top, and hands me the sandwich—a pre-dinner snack.

Later, my friends and I sit on the front stoop, our plates piled high with steak and tomatillos and corn. It’s primal, simple, and most of all, delicious.

Recipes serve 4.

Mixed Grill

4 chorizo links
4 short ribs
1 pound flank steak
6 garlic cloves, smashed
1 red onion, thickly sliced, plus ½ onion for cleaning the grill
2 ears corn, shucked and cut in half
2 tomatillos, sliced in half
3 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half
1 red pepper, cleaned and quartered
1 jalapeño pepper
1 branch rosemary
Olive oil as needed for marinating
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the chorizo, short ribs, and flank steak on a large plate and season liberally with salt and pepper. Arrange 3 garlic cloves over the ribs and steak and drizzle everything with olive oil.

Meanwhile, make the chimichurri sauce (recipe below).

Heat the grill to medium-high. When the grates are very hot, hold the onion slice with tongs or a fork and rub it on the grates to clean them.

Arrange the chorizo, flank steak, and cut vegetables over the grill. Five minutes later, add the ribs. Flip everything after about 10 minutes and scatter the remaining three garlic cloves, smashed, and rosemary needles over the meat. Let grill for about 10 minutes more, or to desired doneness. Serve family-style with the chimichurri.

Chimichurri Sauce

4 to 5 garlic cloves, diced
½ onion, diced
1 jalapeño, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon chili pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cumin
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup red-wine vinegar
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup boiling water

In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients except the boiling water. Stir until well combined. Add the boiling water. Let the sauce sit until it cools to room temperature.

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