For a new take on a steak and cheese, we took inspiration from an unlikely source: Uruguay’s answer to the Dagwood.
The chivito sandwich typically begins with thinly sliced beef and melted mozzarella, then gets stacked with some combination of ham, bacon, olives, pickled peppers, lettuce, tomato, onion, hard-cooked eggs and mayonnaise, often all at once.
When it was created in 1946, the chivito was a simpler affair. The story goes that at the El Mejillón restaurant in the resort town Punta del Este, a customer asked for chivito. That dish, which means little goat, was a popular roasted meat in some parts of Argentina and Chile, but it wasn’t on the menu. So the owner instead slathered lard on a toasted roll and piled it with slices of beef and ham. The customer loved it. Since then, imitators have heaped more and more on the sandwich.
We liked the principle of the chivito—a multitude of flavors and textures in one bite—even if it wasn’t well-suited for a make-at-home sandwich in practice. So we tried to simplify without sacrificing much.
We began by cherry-picking some flavorful toppings—cilantro, green olives, shallots and pickled jalapeños—and combined them to make a bold relish that was easy to slather onto the sandwich. The jalapeños provided heat, and the brine they were packed in added a vinegary tang. Letting the relish ingredients marinate while we cooked the meat tempered some of the sharpness of the shallots.
For the meat, tenderloin is a pricey cut, but a single pound was enough to make four sandwiches, and we didn’t need any further prep to tenderize it. Plus, even if overcooked, the tenderloin was easy to bite through without pulling the sandwich apart. For the cheese, we stuck with traditional mozzarella, which melted easily.
To prepare the tenderloin, we sliced and seasoned it with salt and pepper, then seared the slices over high on one side for 2 to 3 minutes, and only a minute on the other. That browned the meat, which helped develop flavor, but kept the slices tender. Meanwhile, we started toasting the hoagie rolls on the cool side of the grill, finishing them while the meat rested.
Spooned onto one half of the warm, cheese-topped roll, the briny relish offset the savory meat and cheese. A multitude of flavors, sans a mile-high sandwich.