Thursday, May 31, 2012


Last weekend I had the chance to eat asado not once, but twice! Asado is a common dish in Argentina, and is usually cooked on Sundays. It is basically a distant cousin of bbq, but the similarities end there. Asado is cooked over coals, usually in an elevated fireplace. The fireplace might be outside, in its own outbuilding, or in a garage. Around San Luis the coals are usually from wood, but in other places they use charcoal briquettes.

Jorge tending the grill
Before cooking the raw meat is seasoned with salt and other spices. There are almost always several different cuts of meat... matambre is my favorite, it is a type of thin flank steak cut from the belly. Costillas are ribs, which are sometimes called asado as well. Lomo is tenderloin, vacĂ­o is a flank steak, and a bife can either be a T-bone or a rib-eye depending on where it is cut from (bife de chorizo or bife de costilla). There is almost always sausage (chorizo) and blood sausage or sweetbreads if you're into that sort of thing. These names seem to vary a little bit depending on who you talk to, but it gives you a general idea of what can be on the menu.

Most asados include at least 2 but perhaps as many as 5 different cuts of meat. I was told that the seasoning and cooking of the meat isn't nearly as important as the quality of the cut, which defines the overall taste. People seem to have a butcher that they trust to get them good meat, otherwise it isn't worth going to the trouble of preparing everything.
The meat tends to have a lot of fat and isn't really trimmed at all before being tossed on the grill. This is one of the reasons that it tastes so good, but it's much different than a typical Sunday afternoon bbq in the states. Another reason is that the majority of the cattle here are grass-fed. Argentines are serious about their beef and eat a lot of it- sometimes beef is on the menu twice a day.

Chopping garlic
On Friday night I went to a weekly gathering of guys with a professor from the university. I've tagged along before, but never for the main event until now. There was asado, as always, but the main dish was actually something called bagna cauda, which is akin to fondue. The dipping sauce is made from cream, milk, a ton of diced garlic, anchovies (later filtered out), and finely chopped walnuts. There was a wide variety of food to dip: chicken, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, bread, cabbage, celery, etc. Very rich!

The crew
Bon appetit!

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