What would you think if you were invited to a Summer barbecue that had nary a hot dog, hamburger, steak, chicken drumstick, or charred portobello mushroom cap in sight? You'd probably be surprised, as I was a few weeks ago, when I found myself at an idyllic midday cookout on T-Lazy-7 Ranch in Aspen, CO. The open-flame affair, which was hosted by wine label Terrazas de los Andes, focused on the art of the asado, or Argentine tradition of barbecue. Everything, from the selection of meat cuts to the wood-fueled flame, was unlike any grilling I'd done before, yet nothing was too complicated to re-create at home. Keep reading for a glimpse of the South American grilling tradition and tips on how to re-create it yourself.
We've got a partnership with the recipe, equipment, and product testing gurus at America's Test Kitchen. They'll be sharing some of their time-tested recipes and technical expertise with us weekly. Today, they're looking to South America for inspiration on smoky, crisp-crusted meat.
In Argentina, large 2-pound steaks are grilled low and slow over hardwood logs, not charcoal (and never over gas), which imbues them with a smokiness that is subtler and more complex that the typical “barbecue” flavor one comes to expect of grilled meat here in the States. With the piquant parsley, garlic, and olive oil sauce known as chimichurri served alongside, it’s a world favorite. We wanted to duplicate the Argentinean method with American supermarket steaks and a kettle grill.
For our choice of steak, we selected well-marbled New York strip steak for its big beefy flavor and meaty chew. To mimic a wood fire, we added unsoaked wood chunks to the perimeter of our grill fire. Setting the lid down on the grill for the first few minutes of cooking helped to quickly trap smoke flavor. To get a deep brown char on the meat without overcooking it, we used two strategies. First, we rubbed the meat with a mixture of salt and cornstarch. Salt seasons the meat and draws out moisture, as does cornstarch. Then we moved the steaks into the freezer for 30 minutes. The inside of a freezer is so dry that it often robs unprotected food of its moisture. In this instance, this was a good thing. Par-frozen steaks browned within moments of hitting the grill. Even better, these partially frozen steaks could stand about five more minutes of fire, adding up to more char and more flavor. To finish, garlicky chimichurri sauce cut through the rich, unctuous qualities of our great grilled steak.
Here's how we produced our own brand of smoky charred churrasco—even without the aid of a wood-burning Argentine grill.
Use the Right Rub
Rubbing the steaks with cornstarch and salt seasons the meat and expedites crust formation by drying the meat’s exterior; cornstarch also enhances browning.
Get two more simple tips — plus a standout Argentine steak and chimichurri recipe — when you keep reading.
Have you ever tried it? Do you drink Argentine beer?
This story was written by member Eleuthera and comes from the Wine Cellar group in the YumSugar Community.
I recently had a chance to attend a wine tasting for Flichman from Argentina. I especially enjoyed the experience because I had a chance to chat with the winemaker, Luis Cabral de Almeida. From my standpoint, it didn't hurt that he was pretty hot also. We began with a bottle of their Chardonnay for $8. Frankly, I didn't want to taste a bottle of $8 Chardonnay as I hate that overly oaked buttery flavor of vanilla predominating, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was delightful and easily equal to wines I have enjoyed at twice the price. In fact everyone of the wines' price points was spectacular.
To learn more about these amazingly priced Argentine wines read more
This type of meat has more fat than a hanger steak or flank steak, meaning even the most mildly seasoned skirt steak will have out-of-this world flavor and juiciness.
Highlight the rich taste of the meat with this Mark Bittman recipe. The steak is served with an elemental chimichurri sauce of garlic, parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil. See it when you read more
A whole cow's milk cheese native to Southern Italy, provolone is now produced in other regions of the world. It has a mild flavor and semifirm texture. The cheese comes in various forms, ranging from a long salami-like shape to a squat-pear formation ideal for hanging. Provolone has a cream-colored rind and white to light-yellow interior. Most of it's aged two to three months, but some is aged up to a year. The older cheese has a deeper yellow color and more pronounced flavor. Provolone is a versatile cooking cheese because it is great for both melting and grating. To find out how I recently enjoyed it, hot off the grill, read more
Last week I went to an Argentine wine tasting where I tried Colomé's 2008 Torrontés ($10.87). One of Argentina's most popular white grapes, the Torrontés grape was originally from Spain. Generally speaking Torrontés are similar to a Muscat or Gewürtztraminer.
From the Salta region of Argentina, the Bodega Colomé estate is one of the world's highest (over 7,500 feet) vineyards. Their Torrontés is an exceptional white with fruity aromas and a zingy finish. Crisp and clean, this delightful, light white is perfect chilled. It's highly drinkable and would be an excellent start to dinner. Pair with cured meats, cheese, and seafood.
Have you tried a Torrontés or any other wine from Argentina?