Argentinian ‘Bricklayer’ Steak

Argentinian ‘Bricklayer’ Steak

It is always a great joy to happen upon an accidentally keto recipe in a work of undoubted culinary genius. I was paging through Francis Mallman’s wildly influential Seven Fires when I came across this steak recipe. It has very few carbs but is a meal in and of itself, a steak with two sauces, totally bursting with flavors.

Mallman is perhaps Argentina’s most famous chef, classically trained in the French style but absolutely devoted to the rustic and carnivorous traditions of his own country, especially those of the Patagonian hinterland. He calls this ‘bricklayer’ steak, and explains that it is named in honor of the construction workers of Buenos Aires, who would quickly sear a thin steak over an open fire for lunch.

The chef suggests using grass-fed beef tenderloin for this recipe. Either the bricklayers of Buenos Aires are extraordinarily well compensated, or the price of tenderloin is much lower in Argentina than it is in my neck of the woods. I substituted tri-tip, a more affordable cut that seems in keeping with the recipe’s apparently humble origins. Pounding the steak will help tenderize it, and the savory flavor is a fine match for the zesty garlic, lemon and oregano that define the flavors of the dish.

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Argentinian ‘Bricklayer’ Steak


  • 1 lb tri-tip or sirloin steaks, about ¾ inch thick
  • salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • Marinade:
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ bunch fresh oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon crushed chile pepper
  • Guacamole:
  • 1 avocado
  • ½ oz. red onion
  • ½ oz. red bell pepper
  • ½ large jalapeño
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Topping:
  • Crème fraiche (or sour cream)


  1. Pound steaks with the bottom of a heavy pan until they are about ½ inch thick.
  2. Season steaks with salt and fresh ground black pepper.
  3. Prepare the marinade: Smash garlic cloves and discard the skins. Mix garlic together with olive oil, bay leaves, smoked paprika, crushed chile pepper and fresh oregano.
  4. Place steaks and marinade together in a container. Turn steaks so they are totally coated in marinade. Refrigerate overnight.
  5. The next day, first prepare the guacamole: finely dice onion, bell pepper and jalapeño.
  6. Peel the avocados and cut into a very small dice. Mix with onion, bell pepper, jalapeño cilantro, olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste.
  7. Sear the steak in a hot pan to desired doneness. It’s okay if some of the garlic and oregano from the marinade also cook in the pan, just be careful not to burn them.
  8. To serve, slather the steak with crème fraiche (or sour cream) and top with guacamole.

Yield: 2

Food energy: 938 kcal

Total fat: 70g

Carbohydrate: 12.8g

Total dietary fiber: 7.5g

Ross Wollen
Ross Wollen

Ross Wollen is a chef and writer based in Maine's Midcoast region. Before moving East, Ross was a veteran of the Bay Area restaurant and artisanal food scenes; he has also worked as a food safety consultant. As executive chef of Belcampo Meat Co., Ross helped launch the bone broth craze. Since his diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes in 2017, he has focused on exploring the potential of naturally low-carb cooking. Follow Ross on Twitter: @RossWollen

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