I rant you risten

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Argentine Asado (Good Global Eating)

One of the best barbeques I’ve been fortunate enough to sample has to be an Argentinean Asado… I know this is already going to inflate their ready to burst egos (che boludo), but it’s true, dem Argies really know how to cook meat. Through the guidance of some cool gauchos I’ve come to understand how to pick the choicest cuts, the secrets of doneness, taming the flame, feeling & feeding the fuel, patience, enjoying the moment, and letting that smell of cooked meat waft through your nostrils and just linger there…

A couple of notes on Argentine Grilling… Have you ever inspected a raw steak close up? Do you see those white lines running across the meat, that’s actually intra-muscular fat called marbling. “Classy” Continental cooking always wants you to pick steaks with even marbling, because they believe the cut will be tender and as the fat melts while you cook the steak, it’ll naturally baste the meat for you… Argentine cooking does take marbling into consideration but is more about the tender meaty sirloin & tenderloin… Another very peculiar note of mention is the way the Argies like their ribs.. They actually have the butcher cut through the bone and produce strips of ribs.. So you’ll have a long strip of: meat, then a piece of bone, then meat, then bone, and so on and so forth. There’s no marinade except olive oil, salt and pepper – this is because you're meant to serve your meat with Chimmichurri (will explain) sauce. I like to eat my steaks with wholegrain mustard, maybe you do too... Bread is usually on the table to make you a sandwich from the bbq if you like, and the veggies are limited to a couple of simple salads… The emphasis is on the meat, the salads are just there to cleanse your palette between the different types of meat… Empanadas (Turnovers) are also served at Asados (but I'll have another post for that, discussing the debate between the corn flour or regular flour empanoolees)...

Chefs will always tell you only flip the steak once, or you can’t do this or that, or don’t prod… hogwash.. That’s just people telling you what to do… There are some basic principles that you need to adhere to, but everything else is relative and open to tweaking. One of the main aspects of grilling is that you need two heat sections on your grill, direct and indirect heat. You want a section of the grill where you can sear and properly cook your meat on the outside (direct) and a place on the grill where your meat can cook from the inside (indirect)… apart from that, flipping more than once (although I try to limit my flipping), checking for doneness, voodoo dances in front of the flame, that’s all optional…

The Argies don’t really care for bbq marinades and condiments, they have their own majestic sauce: Chimmichurri. This sauce is what does it for me, the entire meal revolves around the adaptability of this sauce, able to go with: bread, sausages, ribs, steak, whatever you like… Basically, take a lot of parsley, chop it up, add vinegar (white or balsamic), oregano, salt pepper, top it off with olive oil, mix it up and then let it sit… Don’t be afraid to experiment with types of vinegar or other spices to add.. Just don’t deviate from “a lot of parsley, vinegar and olive oil” and you’ll be fine…

Once you have your fire going (basic rule: hand needs to 6 inches from the fire for a couple of seconds max), and the sangria is flowing then you start the Asado… First up are the appetizers: Chorizo or any other sausages you prefer. Never forget to puncture the Chorizo with a fork to let the grease inside the sausage seep out.. There have been cases where the chorizo has exploded and sent hot sausage grease all over the cooking space, so watch out (I think that’s the Argentinean boy scout motto when it comes to grilling, I’ve heard that 4 different times from 4 different people – it’s like look both ways before you cross the street, except with the Argies, it’s fork the chorizo before you throw it on the grill)… grill up the sausages and serve them anyway you want: sliced, whole… I like to slice them down the center lengthwise, tear off a piece of bread lay on some chimmichurri, making myself a sandwich affectionately known as “Chori-pan.”

Next up is Provoleta… ok I believe this is just Provolone Cheese thrown on the grill… Basically, layer thick slices of Provolone cheese in a skillet or one of those little aluminum trays, dribble a little olive oil and some oregano and throw it on the grill… the heat will melt the cheese and then you take your bread and scoop up the melted cheese and enjoy… So simple, yet so delicious…

Enough with the teasing appetizers… Let’s move on the Carne… first up are the ribs… Just like I mentioned above, the ribs are cut lengthwise through the bone with around a 3 inch width… You throw these long strips on the grill and just wait… Thanks to my carnivorous little sister, I’ve taken a huge liking to ribs, but served the American way, where you eat the meat off the bone and have the whole rack drowning in bbq sauce… Honestly, the Asado ribs look really appetizing because you’ve got some cooked meat then a piece of bone, then some more cooked meat, it just looks cool.. With the Chimmichurri spooned on top, euuuf…

The steak is the piece de resistance of the Asado… The Boludos do nothing to their steak except rub it with salt and pepper. The GF and I developed the “slice mini pockets into the steak and stuff them with chunks of garlic” technique – a garlic burst of flavor – which totally works but you can do it anyway you want. Whatever way you opt to cook your meat, follow these rules: Leave your meat on the direct heat section of the grill to let it sear from the outside and then flip… Don’t let it totally cook from the outside; you just want to get some nice grill marks and seal it, trapping the juices inside the meat… Move the steak to an indirect heat section on the grill, to let it slowly cook from the inside… As a rule, I cook all my steaks medium (middle of the line) for people; I’m not going to tell you that Medium rare is the way to go (even though it really is), you can have your steak anyway you like it… but if you tell me you want it well done, I’m still going to give it to you medium – believe me it tastes better than a dried steak… I digress, anyways you’ve just cooked your steak to the desired level of doneness… what now? Well now you wait… the outside is perfectly seared with nice grill marks, the inside has slowly cooked, but the juices are floating inside the steak.. You need to let the steak rest a bit (around 3-5 minutes from taking it off the grill), just to let the juices settle, the cooking process slow down and allow the meat to adjust to its new life as a steak. Once you assemble the steak on your plate, take a couple of spoonfuls of chimmichurri and lay it on… Slice through that steak revealing the different colors and degrees of cooking… the outside is nicely done and grilled, while the center is pink and soft, with the juice from the steak trickling onto your plate. The chimmichurri sauce is just the right accompaniment to the meat – vinegar, parsley and olive oil: it beats any steak sauce any day…

Savoring every bite, you slowly continue to devour your steak, spooning on more chimmichurri, and having that “ohh wow, this is so perfect right now “ expression… That’s what I love about steak, if done right, the meat does on a number on your taste buds that can forever change your views on life.. You carnivores know exactly what I’m talking about

More meat is grilled, more wine is poured, more laughs are shared and more people relax. Communal cooking is always fun, and with the right drivers – you’ve got the right evening. You don’t understand how many good nights have all started off with a trip to the butcher to buy some steak, or dividing up the responsibilities of the Asado…

One of the few moments a man really feels like a man is when he’s standing in front of the fire with the dead carcass of an animal he’s going to devour cooked by his own hands…

If you want to top off the evening in true Argie Fashion: then you must indulge your sweet tooth in Alfajores Cookies... these babies are individually wrapped creme filled cookies and one is usually enough to keep you at bay... The chocolate flavored ones are pretty delicious, but I need to go with the Dulce De Leche as my personal favorite - woooooooweeeeeee, now that's an evening I could definitely do with...

13 comments:

Mo said...

Well said.. I might just mix up some Chimmichurri for the next time we fire up "the suze"..

Ahh, Suzy.. our wonderful, wonderful barbeque grill.. so many good times shared with the suze, so much meat and so much booze..

You're absolutely right though, the night isn't enjoyable if the person responsible for the grilling isn't up to the task.. and if you really want to make sure its done right, do it yourself.. nothing better than feeding the masses and making sure everyone has a good time with some good meat.

Anonymous said...

OFF TOPIC :

how should i leave u a private msg ?

E3younAlbak said...

MmMmMmMmMm i need to find a good Argentinean restaurant, you did a great job of reminding me i havent had a thing to eat all day. i will definatly have to try those recipies next time we grill out.

Bahraini Rants said...

Dear Off Topic and anyone else wanting to send me an email:

you can contact me at bahrainirants@gmail.com...

Good vibes and funny shit will always be appreciated and welcomed... Stupid shit will be ignored or possibly ridiculed in future posts... That's my disclaimer and I'm sticking with it...

Think Smart

Desert Island Boy said...

How about that? I just had me some nice ribs and Chimmichurri, with a side of sausage a couple of weeks ago! Very good, very carnivorous!

Good stuff BR, someday I'll find the courage to share my Lasagne Bake with the world!

E3younAlbak said...

i found an Argentinean restaurant and got some steak with chimmichurri on it today. it was awesome

Mahmood Al-Yousif said...

man you hit it right on the head and I'm hungry again. consider yourself (and GF) invited the next time I fire up the barbie, and YOU can do the steaks. There is no way I can rise to your level, but shall try I assure you.

the best Argentinian restaurants I enjoyed are in Amsterdam of all places, and the top of Jumaira Beach Hotel. Divine!

Bahraini Rants said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bahraini Rants said...

Mahmood: Good call in inviting the GF, she does spend a lot of time creating her marinades, which I don’t have to tell you are incredible… This is my recipe for a good evening: Meat, Beverages and cannonballs into the pool – can life get any better?

MY OWN PERSONAL NOTE:
I actually had the pleasure of sitting down with an English Argentinean Gentleman who corrected me on my slang, and educated me on the true inner workings of the Argentine Asado. A real Argentinean Asado involves roasting an entire calf on a spit – where I was just explaining a parilla, a bbq – He also informed me that I had given a more ‘Italianized – Argentinean’ description of the meal… Mr. Pagnam, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and I am even more thrilled that you enjoyed critiquing my thoughts and ramblings. Now if only your grandsons would actually do all the grunt work and prepare us an Asado – I could write a better piece.

Anonymous said...

Evenings. From a true Argentinian, born and raised in Patagonia.
1. Whatever is barbecued on a spit is called "hecho al asador", while an "asado" refers to meat cooked on the grill. No real Argentinian would confuse the two. You would distinguish, for example, between a calf or a lamb "asado" and one "hecho al asador": one is grilled, the other roasted whole on the spit. So your English-Argentinian gentleman is, I think, way off. The best lambs and calfs, by the way, are found in the South and North of Patagonia, and are always cooked "al asador", using wood and not coal.
2. Your description of the asado is accurate, but I have to ask. What about the "achuras" (kidney, sweetbreads)? I know many non-Argentinians dislike them, but we Argentinians think they are the highlight of the meal. You did not try them, or you did not like them?
Oh, a good asado, what a wonderful thing! Thanks for speaking well of it.
Best,
Maria Esperanza Casullo

Trout Stalker said...

My wife is Argentine....and we operate a fishing lodge there and one in the states during the oposing seasons.

I would love to introduce the lamb asado which is cooked on a "cross" type asado. I'm certain you know what I'm talking about.

Do you know of anyone who is making and selling them or has the dimensions to make one?

Saludos!

Esteban (Steve)

Trout Stalker said...

By the way....I can confirm the comments of Maria as 100% accurate based on my experience living in Patagonia. I have never experienced better lamb than that cooked on a spit using wood. I have never seen an argentine use anything but wood. The absulute best lamb I have ever had.

On the other hand.... Maria is right... we gringo's are less likely to enjoy sweetbreads and kidney but the Argentines LOVE it.

Anonymous said...

Ahh having an English father and an Argentine Mother.. well.. Asado.. done right with the right people and the right wine and the right music. and if you ever have been on the pampas as the sun sets
man.. heaven for me... Chimichuri.. don't forget garlic and or shalots in the mix.. very key. Trying to prove that I was not just a gringo I have eat just about every part of a cow, lechon(Pig) and it is all good.. Buen dia boludos