Saturday, 2 June 2018
PREPARE: Asado, The Unique Argentine Meat
In these countries, asado is a traditional way of preparing food and a traditional event.
An asado usually consists of beef, sausages, and sometimes other meats, which are cooked on a grill, called a parrilla, or an open fire.
An asado almost always includes meats, and usually embutidos such as sausages, etc. and offal.
Generally in more elaborate versions the embutidos and meats are accompanied by red wine and salads.
In more formal events and restaurants, food is prepared by a person who is the assigned asador or parrillero. In informal and relaxed settings, this is customarily done in a collective manner by volunteers.
Huge herds of wild cattle roamed much of the pampa region of Argentina until the mid-nineteenth century.
Inhabitants of the Río de la Plata, especially the equestrian gaucho, developed a fondness for beef, especially asado, which is roasted beef or lamb or goat.
The meat, often a side of ribs, is skewered on a metal frame called an asador and is roasted by placing it next to a slow-burning fire.
Gauchos favored cooking asado with the wood of the quebracho tree because it smokes very little. Asado, accompanied by mate tea, formed the basis of the gaucho diet.
Usually the asador begins by igniting the charcoal, which is often made of native trees, avoiding pines and eucalyptus as they have strong-smelling resins.
In more sophisticated asados the charcoal is of a specific tree or made on the coal of recently burned wood, which is also commonplace when having an asado in a campfire.
In Uruguay, charcoal is not used, but instead direct embers or hot coals.
Cooking can be done al asador or a la parrilla. In the first case a fire is made on the ground or in a fire pit and surrounded by metal crosses (asadores) that hold the entire carcass of an animal splayed open to receive the heat from the fire.
In the second case a fire is made and after the charcoal has formed, a grill with the meat is placed over it.
In many asados, chorizos, morcillas or black pudding, chinchulines or cow chitterlings, mollejas or sweetbreads, and other organs, often accompanied by provoleta, would be served first while the cuts that require longer preparations are still on the grill.
Sometimes these are served on a charcoal brasero. Chorizos may be served with marraqueta or baguette bread, often called choripan
After appetizers, costillas or asado de tira (ribs) can be served. Next comes vacío (flank steak), matambre and possibly chicken and chivito (goatling).
Dishes such as pamplona, pork, and Patagonian lamb are becoming more frequent, particularly in restaurants.
An asado also includes bread, a simple mixed salad of, for instance, lettuce, tomato, and onions, or it could be accompanied with verdurajo or grilled vegetables, a mixture made of potatoes, corn, onion, and eggplant cooked on the grill and seasoned with olive oil and salt.
Beer, wine, soft drink, and other beverages are common. Dessert is usually fresh fruit.
The meat for an asado is not marinated, the only preparation being the application of salt before or during the cooking period.
Also, the heat and distance from the coals are controlled to provide a slow cooking; it usually takes around two hours to cook asado.
Further, grease from the meat is not encouraged to fall on the coals and create smoke which would adversely flavour the meat. In some asados the area directly under the meat is kept clear of coals.
The asado is usually placed in a tray to be immediately served, but it can also be placed on a brasero right on the table to keep the meat warm.
Chimichurri, a sauce of chopped parsley, dried oregano, garlic, salt, black pepper, onion, and paprika with olive oil, or salsa criolla, a sauce of tomato and onion in vinegar, are common accompaniments to an asado, where they are traditionally used on the offal, but not the steaks.
Food is often accompanied by salads, which in asado gatherings are traditionally made by women on site or brought to the asado from their homes while the men focus on the meats.
Salad Olivier (ensalada rusa) is one of the most common salads served at asados. In Paraguay Chipa Guasu, sopa paraguaya and boiled manioc as a side dish is also served.
In Chile, the normal version cordero al palo (whole roast lamb) is usually accompanied with pebre, a local condiment made from pureed herbs, garlic, and hot peppers.
In many ways similar to chimichurri. The dish is typical of southern Chile and is served hot accompanied by salads.
A whole lamb is tied to a spit and is then roasted perpendicular on a wood fire. The preparation lasts around 5 hours since cooking must be constant and on a low heat.
This is not to be confused with asado in the Philippines, which is a dish cooked in a sweet, tomato-based stew usually accompanied by potatoes, carrots, and other vegetables.
True to the East-meets-West nature of Philippine cuisine and culture in general, asado is also used as a filling in siopao, the local variant of baozi.
There is also a version of asado that is of Filipino-Chinese origin: the term is used for dried, red-coloured sweetmeats that are otherwise known by its Cantonese name, char siu.
In Brazil, asado is called churrasco, although the cooking is usually faster. Grilled and salted meat in Brazil is generally called carne assada and is often cut into small strips and served on a plate or cutting board in the middle of the table for all to partake.
Various grilled meats, pork, sausages and occasionally chicken are also passed around from table to table on a spit and a slice is offered to each person. This is called rodizio because each person partakes in turn.
Charcoal is predominantly used instead of embers of wood, and Brazilians tend to cook the meat on skewers or grills. In some places, the meat is seasoned with salt and a little sugar.
In Mexico, there is similar tradition of as parrilladas or carne asadas, which incorporates various marinated cuts of meat, including steaks, chicken, and sausages, the chorizo, longaniza, and moronga being especially popular.
These are all grilled over wood charcoal. Vegetables are also placed over the grill, especially green onions cebollitas, nopales, and corn or elote.
Again, in Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, some alternatives are the asado al disco and asado al horno de barro, especially in the countryside.
The recipe doesn't change, only the way of cooking. In the asado al disco the worn-out disc of a plough is used.
Being metallic and concave, three or four metallic legs are welded and with hot coal or lumber below it is easily transformed into an effective grill.
Food is put in a spiral, in such a way that the fat naturally slips to the center, preserving the meat for being fried.
Chili peppers and onions are usually put next to the edge, so that they gradually release their juices on the meat.
The asado al horno de barro differs from tradition, as an adobehorno an oven, called tatakua in Paraguay is used.
These ovens are a common view in Argentine and Paraguayan estancias; their primary function is to bake bread, Chipa Guasu and Sopa paraguaya, but they are well suited for roasting meat.
Pork suckling and, less commonly, lamb are served, as they are more unlikely to become dry. Another way of cooking the asado is inside a chulengo, an oil barrel or similar cut in half.
Inside which the grill is placed to protect both the meat and fire from heavy winds.
This makes the chulengo specially used in the Patagonia, although it's also used in other areas for practicality and the ability to move it around.