TBT: Two Important Words to Know in Argentina

TBT . . .and what a tasty throw back it will be.  Today I want you to join me on a trip back to 2008 for a culinary tour into the world of the Argentina Asado.  No licking the screen!!

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There are two very important words that one learns once they arrive in Buenos Aires. . .either as a visitor or a newly transplanted local. They are Asado and Parrilla.

According to Wikipedia,

“Asado is a technique for cooking cuts of meat, usually consisting of beef alongside various other meats, which are cooked on a grill (parrilla) or open fire.”

But from my limited experience, it so much more than that.

Going to someone’s home for asado is an event usually filled with large numbers of family and friends and even larger amounts of food and wine. I am told there is a definite “right way” to conduct an asado. Knowing that our new apartment has a kick ass parrilla in the backyard, we wanted to learn how to do it right.

00005While we got many many generous offers from our local friends to teach us how to prepare one, we thought it would be fun to learn from some experts. So on Wednesday morning Mike and I and our friends, Bonnie and Van, were picked up by a man named “Buddha” and transported to the small town of Adrogue where we were invited into the home of Teresita (owner of Cooking with Teresita) for her one day Argentine BBQ class. But before we actually walked in the door, we were whisked away to the local butcher shop.

00008There Teresita and Buddha pointed out the various cuts of meat and achuras (also known as offal . .the stuff most of us nortoamericanos want nothing to do with) that we would be grilling and dining on later in the day. I really don’t think I have ever seen so many different cuts of meat in one place at the same time. For the carnivore. . it was heaven.

We decided to take a little walking tour back to Teresita’s home while she pointed out the local sites. . .most of which were restaurants she recommended in the neighborhood (many of whose chefs were her former students). We also thought we would get a little exercise in before the food fest began.

As we walked into Teresita’s home, I got a case of kitchen envy. This kitchen had a large wooden table in the middle to seat at least 6 people, a large parrilla, an oven, a stove, lots of counter space and most every gadget and spice you can imagine. I was getting more excited by the minute.

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We started out slowly by drinking tea and coffee to get rid of the morning chill. Once we got settled, we each got a cutting board and a knife and got to work. While we each had something to cut (onions, garlic, scallions, tomatoes and parsley) for the chimichuri and salsa criolla (tomatoes, onions, peppers with a little oil . . sooo good) that we would also learn to make, Buddha began preparing the parrilla.

00032He showed us the correct way to place the wood and paper and charcoal, how to get the fire going quickly and how to organize it all once the embers were ready, as there must be no flames, just the embers very bright, beforeplacing the meat on the parrilla.

00064Once the chimmichuri and salsa criolla were done, out came the bread and wine and we got the first taste of our labors. Quite tasty I might add.

00069Back to Buddha. He started bringing out various meats and placed them on the parrilla. The offal (achuras) need more time to cook and are the first items eaten so they are placed on the hot grill first. The following offal were on our menu for the day . . . in this order: morcilla (blood sausage), chorizo, rion (kidney), chinchulin (lower intestine) and molleja (sweetbreads). Needless to say, I am shocked that I ate each and every item they put on my plate. I definitely liked some things better than others, and there are others I will never, EVER try again. But I have to say that I have tasted some of these things before and while I swore then I would never eat them again, I decided to be adventurous (and polite) and much to my surprise, when cooked right . . . not too bad.

For the vegetarians of the group, we cant forget about the Provoleta . . . barbequed provolone topped with chilli and oregano. It is as good as it sounds. Oh yeah, we had salad too . . . hee hee!!

00088Next up on the grill came the meat. We were told that when you put the meat on the grill, make sure to place the bone side down first. In case of boneless meat, the fat side should also be the first side to be cooked. The meat that we grilled and ate are, in order: entraa (skirt steak), matambrito de cerdo (flank steak of pork), vacio (flank) and asado de tira (short ribs).

It is hard for me to pick favorites but I think my favorite offal of the day was chinchulin (I think I talked myself into thinking it was shrimp because that is what it looked like) . . . but cooked very well done with some lemon, salt and lots of chimmichurri, they were actually very good. And surprisingly, I think my favorite meat of the day was not entrana (as it usually is). . .but rather the matambrito de cerdo.

00134After much meat and wine, it was somehow actually time for dessert. There was no lesson in that. . .just a room full of very full and sated guests rubbing their bellies. Somehow we each managed to polish off a homemade crepe filled with dulce de leche.

To quote Teresita: “This is possibly the most important advice Never stop flowing the wine, since Asado and a proper Red Wine is the happiest couple to be known. And remember, the pleasure is not only to eat the Asado. The real joy is to gather with friends around the grill, from the beginning, sharing a very good moment that starts when you light the fire and fill the first glass of wine.”

So now when we have our first asado, between all the tips we picked up and the assistance from all our friends (including Nigel our sommelier friend who will handle the wine), I think a good and filling time will be had by all. Because it sure was at Teresitas!

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Check out our Pinterest Pages called Foods of Argentina my Second Home and Argentine Asados to get a real flavor of Argentine food.  Bon Appetit!!

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