My friend, Maria, is a citizen of South America. In her 30 or so years on this planet, she has lived in practically every country on that continent. She knows a thing or two about South American cuisine. One thing in particular is that there’s no such thing as “South American cuisine”. There are similarities, yes. But, each country, region, city, village, culture has its own specialties and interpretation of local available fruit, vegetables, meat and eggs.
Maria’s specialty is Argentine barbecue. Whether she’s preparing a birthday party, a picnic, even a tea party, the menu always centres on a charcoal-fired grill. Let me tell you, Argentinians don’t waste a thing. They’re happy to grill any part of a cow, and do! But, that’s part of the charm. When grilled meat tastes this good, why wouldn’t you use up as much meat as possible?
Asado is the word Argentines use to mean “a social event”. The same word applies to the kind of food they’re going to eat. Typical Asados consist of a variety of meats (every cut of beef, poultry, game meats and offal) grilled on a parrilla (pronounced parizja and meaning “grill”), and is usually not marinated. Add a good bit of salt and pepper just before grilling.
Start by igniting the charcoal. Please do not use lighter fluid. It tends to give off an unpleasant, chemical aroma. But, go ahead and add a few tree branches for a little added aroma and flavour. Argentines avoid pines, but favour eucalyptus. If you have a fruit tree growing in your backyard, try using that. While that’s heating up, enjoy an appetizer of bite-sized empanadas. Prepare a large, clean container to hold the cooked meat. Then, start grilling! To be as authentic as possible, the meat must be grilled slowly. A typical Asado could take upwards of two hours. So, lift the grill far enough away from the coals so the meat can cook at a slower rate.
Serve ribs, flank steak, chicken, goat and any other kind of meat you prepared alongside an array of salads. Chimichurri sauce is a simple combination of chopped parsley, dried oregano, garlic, salt, pepper, chopped onion and paprika with olive oil. Spoon it onto the offal, but not the steaks. Slake your thirst with imported Argentine beer.