Monday, January 16, 2006

Argentine Assado (not for vegetarians)

I don't eat red meat that often at home in the states. Not because I don't like it, but because I find that it's rarely very good. Unless you pay an arm and a leg, you're probably going to get some choice cut (sounds good, but it's far from the best cut available) that is tough and bland and relies way too much on a marinade and/or sauce. However, when I'm traveling in countries like Portugal and Argentina, I eat red meat all the time. It's wonderful there. Rarely marinated and often just sprinkled liberally with salt and cooked over a wood burning fire, steaks, sausages, ribs and chops take on whole new dimensions cooked this way.

In Argentina, it's known as an assado. Often a cow will be butchered specifically for an assado, and every part of the animal will find it's way to the grill. Blood sausage is always there (yes, it's good), numerous cuts of beef including flank, entre cote, loin, short ribs, sausage, kidneys and so on, and many times there's also pork, chicken or goat. At my aunt's house, one of the ranch hands would come over in the afternoon and start a wood fire on the ground. The fire is always started close to the grill, but not under it and is shoveled under the grill or "parilla" as needed. So essentially there are two fires going and this way they can add more heat to the meat as needed. In one instance I saw them use a wheelbarrow on its side to contain the burning wood right behind the grill. Some people have more formal set-ups with large grills built into an outside stone table with cranks to raise and lower the meat. Not once did I see a stainless steel uber grill like we have in the states, not even a Weber.


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