Argentinian Asado – So Much More Than a BBQ

“Un Aplauso Para el Asador!”

(an applause for the asador!)

Asado (A-sod-oh) is Argentina. A day long homage to all things grilled meat, the asado brings together family and friends, usually on Sundays, and represents the true spirit of Argentinian people. Historically, the abundance of wild cattle from the pampas plains combined with the mystique of the proud and independent Gauchos (cowboys) who herded them, makes for a strong cultural identity around cooked meats.

My Hungry Traveler is excited to show you how to throw a fun and filling asado that friends and family won’t stop raving about. You can also learn more about the origins of Argentinian cuisine HERE.

An asado spread

The Basics

  • Plan for a long weekend afternoon when the weather’s nice and you don’t mind being outside.
  • During weekends in Argentina, it’s very common for friends and family to gather around food. Time is spent chatting, listening to music, drinking vino tinto (red wine), and munching on tasty appetizers until the main dishes come off the grill.
  • Figure around 1 pound (1/2 kilogram) of meat per guest and extra for leftovers.
  • Ask guests to bring typical side dishes, chimichurris, and fruit desserts.
  • The star of the show, meat, should be of the highest quality, only salted to allow the beef flavors to shine, and cooked slowly to medium-well doneness over low heat. Pork gets salted the same but with a light squeeze of lemon to bring out its natural sweetness. Sausage doesn’t get salted.
  • Sprinkle a heavy dose of coarse like sal parrilla or Kosher salt within 30 minutes of serving.
  • One person mans the grill. In Argentina this grill master is called the “asador” and is revered and applauded for their skill in handling this difficult responsibility.
  • Asado courses come in waves and the asador usually goes around serving guests as the meats come off the grill.
  • Prepare everybody in advance that there’s little chance of escaping unstuffed.

THE ASADO

All asados start with sitting around chatting and munching on appetizers before the meats come off the grill. The meats are cooked with the larger, longer cooking meats going on the grill first and smaller cuts going on later. Argentinians love their meats grilled low and slow until it is well done with crispy outsides and tender juicy insides.

Appetizers – Known in Spanish as entradas, these are the meal-before-the meal of an asado. Plates of picada (cold cuts of deli meats and cheeses), loaves of baguettes, empanadas, pickled eggplant, and provoleta (grilled cheese wheel) are just a few of the varieties to be served well before the meat is even done cooking. For a hearty group, matambre arrollado (rolled stuffed beef), also known as “hunger killer”, is also served.

Wine – Although beer and other beverages are often served at an asado, Argentina is known for its incredible wines that seem to have been made for the sole purpose of complementing their meat. Red wines, such as the popular Malbec, complement the rich flavor of the meat perfectly. Mix some sparkling water into the wine for a less intense, bubbly red wine.

Sides and Salsas – The asado’s grilled dishes are almost always accompanied with fresh salads and salsas to counter the richness of the meats. A nice complement is chimichurri (green, red, or both), ensalada criolla (red pepper salsa), Ensalada de Palmitos (hearts of palm salad), Ensalada Rusa (potato salad). Vegetables like red peppers, onions, zucchini, and eggplant are brushed lightly with olive oil and salted before joining the meats on the grill.

The Opening Act – No asado is complete without Argentine sausages – chorizo, salchia paradilla, and morcilla. Chorizo is served in a baguette with chimichurri (choripan). Salchia a basically a coil of grilled pork or chicken sausage that’s much like an Italian sausage in taste. Morcilla is blood sausage may sound scary but actually has a mouthwatering taste. In a traditional asado, the achuras (innards) come next. To many Argentinians this is the best part of an asado. Different parts of the cow grilled include the kidney, intestine, tripe, and sweetbread. Remember, there is no shame in skipping the achuras, morcilla, or anything else for that matter.

The Main Act – It’s finally time to focus on the heavenly smells that have been wafting in the air for hours. Although beef is the main event, many asados will also have chicken and pork. In addition to asado de tira (short ribs) and bife de chorizo (sirloin steak), an asado usually has a few other grilled items, including pollo asado (butterflied chicken), bife de lomo (tenderloin), entraña (skirt steak), vacío (flank steak), and pork spare ribs.

The Finale – After applauding the asador, brace yourself to taste any deserts that guests brought. Although it will be painful to fit them in at this juncture, it’s the right thing to do.

Where’s the Beef? Excellent quality Argentinean sausages and meat cuts can be ordered online from Wild Fork Foods.

MHT’s Asado Recipes:

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