Argentinean Grilling

What is Argentine Grilling?

Argentine grilling is more than grilling. It is a tradition passed on from father to son. It is never deviated from. The gauchos(cowboys) were the first to introduce grilling to Argentina in 1536. The gauchos were mostly of Italian descent and so a great deal of Italian style flavor was added to the Argentine diet.

Argentine grilling is called asado and the pit master is called an asador while the grill is called a parrillo. The asador is an honored position which is passed on from father to son. Some asadors can claim to have a lineage that literally goes back centuries. The asado is centered around beef.
The asado does not begin until the asador arrives and inspects everything. I mean absolutely everything. He inspects the wood for the fire. He inspects the meats to be sure they are of the quality and the correct amount of meat for the asado. He inspects the parrilla to make sure it is in good repair and the correct size. Once the asador has completed his inspection and it is worthy then the asado may begin but not before. The asador assumes a leadership role from the beginning to the end.

The asador assigns duties to a variety of assistants. There is someone assigned to be in charge of the fire. There is someone who is assigned to be in charge of the meats. There is someone assigned for the sides to be served. The asado is a village wide event. They are held as a celebration of a baptism, anniversary, founding of the village and more. If there is an event that involves the entire village you can bet there will be an asado.

The Fire for the Asado

Since the fire for the Asado is done open air, it is composed of hardwoods that have been seasoned to burn hot give off coals that will retain their heat for hours. The fire is traditionally built in an enclosure that is open on the front. If the asador has trouble lighting the fire he will use newspaper as a tinder to start the fire but will not use an accelerant like starter fluid. This adds chemicals to the fire that change the taste of the meat. The tools of the asador are rake, shovel and extra long tongs.

Once the desired embers or coals is reached, the asador will put the parrilla(grill) in place to begin the cooking process. The parrilla is placed about 6 inches over the coals to catch the best temperature for the thicker cuts of meat.

Some Common Meats of the Asado

If you are looking for the best meats for the asado then you need look no further than the grasslands of the Pampas. Argentinians prefer grassfed beef over any other. They eat approximately 160 pounds of beef per year where the people of the United States eat a mere 87 pounds per year.

The gauchos who followed the herds across the Pampas plains made their mark on how meat was grilled in Argentina. They brought their style of cooking and seasoning to the area. They cooked low and slow and had the tastiest and most tender meats the area had ever known.

If you are looking for the asado to be a quick event you would be sadly mistake. A typical asado will last hours.
The meats are all the best cuts. The meats will be cooked largest pieces first, then the next smaller cut and so on down the line but they are all cooked the same. All of them are cooked low and slow. The Argentines prefer their meat to be medium well to well done.

These cuts of meat include but are not limited to ribs, chorizo, black pudding, and sweet breads. Another two favorite cuts of meat are vacio(flank steak and entrana(skirt steak). These are both flavorful and work well on the parrillo.

As the meat is cooked, the flames are gone but the heat remains. The asadors of Argentina have devised a method where even if there is a flareup none of the flame touches the meat but burns off naturally. The reason it doesn’t touch the meat is the parilla grates have grooves on them to channel the fats and juices away from the meat thereby keeping the meat away from any flareups and keeping the desired flavor of the meat intact.

Another type of food that is commonly grilled are peppers and vegetables.

The entire meal on average has a little over one pound of meat per person. There are very few sides served at an asado. There may be a side salad consisting of tomato, oil and a white wine vinegar which pairs well with the meat of the asado. Do not be surprised if you get a round of applause. This is customary and besides you have earned the attention for a job well done.
There may be a chimichurri sauce as well.

Francis Mallmann’s Chimichurri Sauce

Ingredients

1 cup water

1 tbs salt

1 head garlic separated and peeled

1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup fresh oregano leaves

2 tbl crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup red-wine vinegar

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

bring water to boil in a small sauce pan

add salt and stir until dissolved

remove from heat and let cool

mince garlic finely and put in a medium bowl

mince parsley and oregano add to garlic and red-pepper flakes

whisk in red-wine vinegar then add olive oil

whisk in salted water

transfer to jar that has a tight seal refrigerate for at least 24 hours

serve with grilled meats

will keep for at least three weeks

Adapted from “Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way”, by Francis Mallmann with Peter Kaminsky; Artisan 2009

Please leave comments so that I may better serve you

Tlhanks

Jerry

How to Grill Vegetables

Selection of Vegetables

The best vegetables come from your garden is you know how the vegetables were raised and if any fertilizer was used and what type of fertilizer. This is so important because of the implications of what over fertilization can do to your health. Another good place to buy vegetables is from the Farmer’s Market. The Market is a good source of high quality vegetables that come from trusted sources. Most farmers will tell you what type of fertilizers were used and what type of soil and amendments.
You will want to keep your selection of vegetables simple when you first start grilling vegetables. One of the reasons to keep your selection simple in the beginning is to learn how to grill them to bring out the fullness of flavor of the vegetables. Stay with the vegetables that you know.

Children love Grilled Food

If you have children that will be present. I have found that if you make it fun for them during the preparation and the grilling process they will be more likely to eat them. Some vegetables I have found that kids like grilled are carrots, eggplant, corn on the cob and zucchini. Some kids like grilled green beans, broccoli and cauliflower. It all depends upon what you can get them to try. It goes back to involving them in the prep process and doing it in a positive way to peak their interest. Most kids are naturally curious.

How to Grill Vegetables

When you prep your vegetables, you need to be sure to clean them thoroughly and properly. The reason I say this is you do not want to use warm or hot water on mushrooms since this will cause them to discolor. You will want to use cold water to clean your vegetables with. NEVER use even a mild detergent on your vegetables since you will not be able to get all of the residue off.
Some vegetables are tricky to cook since they are so full of water. One example is portabella mushrooms and another example is zucchini. These two vegetables while both having an abundance of water in them are grilled totally in different ways.

Portabella mushrooms are not as dense as zucchini and do not have to be cooked as long and will not take very

many spices. I generally just cook the caps finishing with the cap side down to make sure I don’t get water mixed in with the other items I grill. No one likes soggy food.
Zucchini on the other hand can take many more spices. and rubs and depending upon the cut may take longer to cook. Some people will quarter the zucchini and others will slice it. Personally I just use a little olive oil and cook over medium high heat.

Seasonings

I always try to use fresh herbs and either olive oil or canola oil on my vegetables. I never use one that will overpower the flavor of the vegetable that I am grilling. You always want to use a herb or spice that complements the vegetable of choice. For example, you would not want to use fennel with zucchini but you would want to use cumin with jalapenos. The main thing is to have a working knowledge of which spices and herbs work well with the vegetables you are grilling. It is in my opinion a good thing to experiment to see if there is a combination that works better for you than what you currently have experienced.

Conclusion

The main thing about grilling vegetables is to stay with them since they will cook quickly. The have a great deal of water in them so cook them thoroughly and not over cook them. You will want to have some char on them but not much. Once you get the hang of it you will not want to have them any other way. They are absolutely delicious and are good for you.