Tom Grills, Argentina Style

asado1Grillmaster Tom brings you this recap.

Sunday is the traditional day for asado in Argentina. As parties go, this one has a pretty simple formula: start a fire, grill up a big pile of meat, hang out with family and friends for the afternoon, and eat until you are no longer able to move.

Our current apartment comes complete with a beautiful parilla, and we’ve hosted one asado already. But, on that occasion, my duties involved nothing more than making the salad, since our friend Dani expertly handled all of the grilling. For various reasons, I had not yet taken the helm of the parilla. I had not yet assumed the role of asador.

(To my mind’s ear, “asador” is always said with great drama. Think “matador” and say it with a flourish and, perhaps, a stamping of your foot.)

Why the hesitation to grill?

For one, you can’t start grilling until you’ve got some meat, and I’m intimidated by the butcher. Even in the US, I never looked forward to buying meat. I would often go marching up to the meat counter, recipe from Cook’s Illustrated in hand, and explain that I was looking for a specific cut. (Cook’s Illustrated has very strong opinions on which cuts are best for their recipes.) The butcher would then tell me they didn’t have said cut and look at me like I was crazy for asking.

And, that was in English! Here, I get to do the whole song and dance in broken Castellano and pantomime.

Furthermore, I’m totally spoiled by my gas grill in the US. Press a button and you’re ready to cook ten minutes later. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a push-button parilla. Oh no, you’ve got to go all primitive and caveman-like and get a fire started using nothing more than matches and a bag of charcoal.

Since I had no kindling, no lighter fluid, and little experience, I was concerned about my fire-starting skills. Could I really set the charcoal ablaze with some scrap paper and an empty Fruit Loops box? At first, it didn’t look too promising. Zoe offered to help by throwing dried leaves onto the top of the fire, and while that pleased the inner pyromaniac in both of us, it didn’t make the slightest difference to actually getting the charcoal lit.

In the end, Zoe saved the day. She spotted a few dead branches caught in the tree that overhangs our terrace, and using a rope she got at a knot-tying demonstration, she was able to lasso several and pull them down. We broke up the branches, created a little teepee of twigs, and pretty soon we had a roaring fire going.

With that problem solved, I started grilling. And, I didn’t really know when to stop. As the photos show, for just a family of four, I grilled a lot of meat. (We call that having an asado, Ian-style, since he started the family tradition of buying way too much meat for the occasion.)

The results from my first outing as asador:

* Chicken. Perfectly done. Mostly due to Michele’s brining and her expertly prepared wet rub of cumin, lemon, garlic, olive oil and chilies.

* Bife de Chorizo. (New York Strip Steak) Sadly, these were a little over-done. In Argentina, they would call this level of cooking a punto. They definitely were not jugoso (rare). Obviously, I was paying too much attention to chowing down on the chicken at the time, and not enough to my steaks still on the grill.

* Pork Roast. This was the wild card. I’m not even sure what cut of pork this is, and since we were all too stuffed with beef and chicken to eat any more, we just wrapped it up and put it in the fridge. Hopefully, it can form the basis of a leftover dinner later this week.

All in all, not too bad for a first attempt.


4 Responses to “Tom Grills, Argentina Style”

  1. Mamacita

    Now you’ll have to aim for the one match fire. Sounds mouthwatering, too bad you can’t send the leftovers here.

  2. Tom

    I hope to achieve the “no match fire”. That’s where Zoe bangs rocks together until she sends the sparks flying!

  3. joli

    next time, try some entraña as well. it is fattier, but because of this is very tasty. shrinks up quite a bit too. so buy about 50% more than you think you need.

  4. Tom

    Thanks for the tip–I’ll have to try some entraña next time. And that “buy more than you think you need” is my kind of advice!

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