Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter 2010 with New Year’s Resolutions! Behold, El Chivito!

Chivito and ensalada rusa

Made during the horrid, self-reflective, and, frequently, gassy hours aboard a trans-Atlantic flight this past weekend, our New Year’s resolutions swore us to no less than three weeks of Spartan, monkish grazing on whole grains, green vegetables and lean protein in order to trim ourselves of burgeoning, lumpy mid-sections brought on by the combined Holiday calories of three Thanksgiving dinners, two Christmas roasts and a New Year’s trip to France.

However, we have since surprised, or dismayed, even ourselves with the deplorable level of willpower demonstrated in abandoning our resolutions after just three days. Only slightly less amazing is that three days of salads could drive us to such an extreme. Perhaps the only positive we can draw is that at least we’re starting 2010 with a gastronomic bang instead of whimpering abstemiousness.

Chivito and Ensalada Rusa

The chivito is, informally, the national dish of Uruguay and legend has it that it came about when an Argentine tourist from the city of Cordoba, visited the establishment of restaurateur Antonio Carbonara in the beautiful beach resort of Punta del Este, and asked for a sandwich of roasted young goat meat (a specialty of her native province), known as chivito*. Having no goat, Senor Carbonara proceeded to prepare a steak sandwich for his Argentine guest, topping it with just about everything he had to hand in his kitchen. The resulting sandwich was such a great success that it became a permanent item on Carbonara’s menu, and its fame spread across the country like wildfire, becoming known in the process as the chivito.

chivito cross-section

As with nearly every “national” dish, there are a few variations on the theme, but the chivito is basically a sandwich made of a thin piece of beef, often skirt steak (churrasco) topped with melted mozzarella cheese, grilled or pan fried red pepper, bacon, ham, egg (either boiled or fried), lettuce, tomato, sliced onions, mayonnaise, sliced pickles and olives on a bread roll. The two principal variants on this theme are the Chivito Canadiense (Canadian chivito) which substitutes Canadian-style bacon for the crispier kind, and the chivito al plato, a deliciously messy platter of all the typical ingredients served without a bun on a plate and often with fries, or, maybe even more commonly, with ensalada rusa (Russian salad – potatoes, mayonnaise, carrots, peas, tuna, onion, parsley, and, occasionally, boiled egg and sliced beets). Note: Chivitos may also substitute chicken or veal escallopes for the steak.

On our final night in Montevideo last spring, instead of our usual giant steak dinner at one of that city’s wonderful parrillas, we tasted our first chivito at a small sidewalk cafe in the quiet neighborhood of Pocitos. Until that moment, we had been led to believe that the United States was the home of the world’s most ambitious and artery-busting sandwiches — indeed, it is home to most of them — but we now know that the Uruguayans, in their charmingly understated and apparently ego-less manner, have created something which can challenge for that title.


Whether you choose to make yourself a chivito now or later, as a reward for an extended period of fasting, is entirely up to you, but since last night’s regimenal aberration we have remade our vows to gastronomic penitence. How long we keep them this time is, as yet, unknown, but the mere sight of a chivito tends to focus your mind on, ahem, one’s weighty personal issues.

*The word chivito refers, specifically, to a young goat that has been weaned and fed on solid food. It, therefore, differs from the cabrito, or baby goat – an unweaned animal – by being some months older.

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El Chivito with Ensalada Rusa (serves 2)

  • 1/2 lb skirt, shell or shoulder steak
  • 4oz mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 1/2 red pepper, sliced into wide pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 bread rolls, Kaiser or Portuguese type work well (large floury baps for UK readers)
  • 4 rashers smoked bacon
  • 4 slices cooked ham
  • 1/2 large tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 large tomato, diced
  • 1/4 yellow/Spanish onion, sliced into half-moons
  • 1/4 yellow/Spanish onion, diced
  • 2 or 3 large leaves iceberg lettuce
  • 5oz mayonnaise
  • 1/2 can tuna in oil
  • 2 large floury potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 small or 1 large carrot, quartered
  • 4oz frozen peas (petit pois)
  • 2oz scallions/spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2oz Italian/flat-leaf parsely, finely chopped
  • 1 pickled cucumber, sliced into strips
  • salt and black peppper


  1. Boil potatoes for the salad for 6-10 minutes (depending on size of pieces) until they’ll slide off a knife pushed into them.
  2. Remove from water and set aside to cool.
  3. In the same water, boil carrots (also for the salad) for 4 minutes or so, until tender but retaining a little crunch.
  4. Drain and set aside to cool.
  5. In a large frying or saute pan, cook bacon until crispy.
  6. Remove to a paper-toweled plate.
  7. Pour off some of the bacon grease, leaving just enough to coat the pan, and add steaks.(Make sure to season meat before cooking.)
  8. Cut open rolls / cut rolls in half horizontally.
  9. Turn after 1 minute and place mozzarella slices on cooked side.
  10. Cover pan for a further minute, to allow cheese to melt, before removing steaks to a plate.
  11. Add an extra splash of bacon fat, if necessary, before quickly frying the red pepper just enough to soften it. No more than 2 minutes in total.
  12. Remove peppers and, again, if necessary, add a touch of extra fat to the pan.
  13. Fry your eggs on one side just long enough to coagulate the white, leaving the yolk gloriously gooey.
  14. Now, following the pictorial above, begin to assemble sandwich with cheesy-steak at the bottom, then pile the other ingredients on in the following order: red peppers, ham, fried egg, bacon, tomato, pickles, sliced (half-moon) onions and lettuce.
  15. Dress with mayonnaise (or golf sauce) and olives before topping with bun.
  16. Returning to your now-cooled potatoes and carrots for the ensalada rusa. Dice potatoes into 1/2 inch chunks, and carrots into 1/8 inch pieces and place in a large bowl.
  17. Combine the diced onion, scallions, parsley, tuna, peas, diced tomato and 4oz of mayonnaise in this bowl.
  18. Stir well and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a glug of olive oil if it feels too thick.
  19. Your ensalada rusa is ready.
  20. Now, slice your chivito carefully and enjoy it with the salad in all its messy glory with plenty of napkins and cold beer.

31 thoughts on “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter 2010 with New Year’s Resolutions! Behold, El Chivito!

  1. I made my first chivito just a few weeks ago and LOVED it. I used thin sliced beef tenderloin instead and I skipped the egg, only because my griddle insert for my grill hadn’t gotten here yet. It is an awesome sandwich, no doubt. Yours looks exceptionally good and as always, the photography excels.

  2. maybelles mom – the salad is a very traditional thing and it can actually be pretty good, though, in truth we prefer our chivitos with fries, as, as good as ensalada rusa is, it’s just potato salad at the end of the day.
    Joan/Mark/FH – glad to be back. Happy New Year one and all.
    Chris – even though most of what we read suggested using skirt steak, i think your choice of filet is probably a better one as it’s more tender and easier to chew, and a chivito is a hard enough thing to eat at the best of times!

  3. If you needed a reason, that sandwich is it! I am really liking the salad, especially with tuna in it. So colorful too.

    I mentioned you on my blog today. Thanks for the pork recipe.
    Lori Lynn

  4. The progression pics are great! Made me feel like I was there watching you put it all together into one hunk of good lovin’. Anything that calls for both bacon and ham shoots straight to the top of my yum-yum list. Happy New Year, you two!

  5. happy new year to both of you! hope you had a lovely break. i am just back as well and trying to catch up with everyone’s new blog posts (except i am the only one who hasnt done one yet!). i love the idea of goat meat in a sandwich. i would not have thought that they have mozzarella in Uruguay, i wonder where that influence came from (perhaps neighbouring Argentina, where they have a lot of Italian influenced cuisine?) the fried egg in the sandwich is absolute divinity, love egg yolk w meat. i dont eat pork, but your photos of the sandwich with the bacon made me drool to no end! (forgive me father, for i have sinned). lovely step-by-step photos. best wishes, shayma

  6. Yummm. Heart attack on a bun. I know that gassy feeling on a long haul flight. You just want to get home and purge your system after weeks of travel. Happy New Year. This sandwich would kill my will power, but hwy , you only live once.

  7. It may not be the healthiest dish around but it sure looks and sounds great! Wow! What a sandwich. Has anyone ever tried it using chivito? I first had goat in Acapulco years ago and really love it. Great post.

  8. As wonderful as this looks, its a dish that probably only tastes right when actually eaten in Uruguay. We have eaten them all over Uruguay, but enjoyed the ones at the bus terminal the most. Go figure. Its the first thing we eat when we get to Uruguay and the last thing we eat as we leave.

    These are amazing. I never knew the story behind them and actually thought they were made out of goat at one time. Thanks for the little history lesson.

  9. I want to print that sandwich photo-montage, frame it and put it over my bed. Damn, that’s what i call a sandwich!
    Happy New Year to you both and screw the resolutions! 🙂

  10. The pictures sequence of the Chivitos construction is Sooo smart and unique!
    He, he… having purposes is so easy, but following them… 🙁

    HAPPY NEW YEAR Darlings!!!!!!

  11. Steak AND ham AND bacon. I think I’m in love.

    Don’t worry about breaking those monastic vows. I sometimes think our bodies do better when we don’t subject them to extremes. Just because we overeat one day doesn’t make our need for food any different the next.

    BTW, welcome back! 🙂

  12. Heh. Heh.
    NO worries about disrupting my resolutions. No resolutions to be had here… and the reason probably has something to do with wonderful things like el chivito!

    Keep ’em coming. I’ll be here to eat them right up.

  13. Hey folks, you were cited in a brand new book called Foodies. It’s a sociological study. It’s at home now, but if you want the complete title, author and page, let me know.

    Ken (kalbala at pacific dot edu)

  14. This post made me smile, just like the yule log, I knew you two would come up with an unexpected new year treat. Looks outrageous and wonderful.
    and that fried egg !

  15. whimpering abstemiousness over here. day 13. no dairy, bread or any other grain or bean, (hardly any) salt, sugar, alcohol, not even olive oil.

    what i am eating…
    lean proteins
    raw flax seed oil
    certain fruits
    80 oz of water a day

    i’m dyin ovaheya
    but honestly, i feel better

    time to lose the goddamn blog weight…

    this too shall pass

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