Asado: The Best of Life Argentina

 

Asado is the rock upon which all culture is formed in Argentina.

Argentina Asado in The Patagonia JournalLifestyle traditions take many forms in Argentina, and my undisputed favorite is Asado. It’s a cultural ritual that assumes the traits of individual expression and style; and in a country that shares various heritages from around the globe, it binds them together.

Everyone loves Asado.

As an extranjero in this beautiful country, I thought it was just a Barbecue; (my Argentine friends have learned to forgive my ignorance). Whereas in the states, the star of a cook-out is usually the grill itself, being admired for either its high-tech construction and shiny stainless form, or for its simplicity (for all you Weber lovers) and perfect distribution of glowing briquettes.

The star of an Asado is the food.

Asado in Argentina, The Patagonia JournalThe grilling implement in Argentina, known as the Parilla (pa-ri-sha), may be a uniquely designed structure of brick and tile, or as simple as a handmade rebar and wire rack propped up over a bed of coals by rocks; it matters not.

Some of the best asado I have ever experienced was cooked “al Disco”, which uses a discarded steel farming disc, polished and braced with welded tripod legs.

The defining factors of an asado all boil down to the skill and undivided attention of a master “Asador”; and a crowd of good natured companions.

You will meet people from all walks of life, and frequently from the four corners of the globe at an Argentine asado. I have fond asado memories of sitting next to a river bank, and listening to gauchos talk about their lives in the campo; and others of sipping wine and conversing with a physicist who was also a passionate fly fisherman. You just never know who you are going to meet.

Asado beef in argentina, The Patagonia JournalIn terms of heating source, all of you Americans who debate the superiority of Charcoal Brickettes vs. Gas are arguing over second place.

The only real way to cook meat properly is with nature’s perfect material, Wood.

It’s a very slow process, getting the split wood prepared, burned until it falls into perfect little coals, and then lightly scattered into patterns beneath the parilla that offer various heat zones, so you can cook a wide variety of meats at the same time. I’m not talking about burgers and dogs; but the real deal. Steaks, ribs, endless varieties of fresh sausage (chorizo), and whole Chivos (goats).

 

 

 

 

Don’t come to one of these looking for a tofu burger, Barbie. And don’t expect this event to be over quickly; it takes hours to slow cook these delicacies to perfection, and time has little meaning in this hemisphere.

Unlike barbeques in the states, the beverage of choice at the table is always fine wine; and in truth, good quality meat shouldn’t be washed down with anything else.

It’s ok to have a glass or two of beer while you’re chatting up before the meal, and complimenting the Asador on his technique, but toasts at the table are better made with vino.

Malbec is the most recognized by foreigners, but there are some really good wines to be had in Patagonia at stupidly low prices.

I prefer a Pino Noir made by the Alfredo Roca vineyards in Mendoza Province (I’ll be reviewing this one in the near future, you can bet.) You might also want to try something out of the ordinary, like a nice Tempranillo. It’s a masculine wine that goes really well with beef and chorizo, which is definitely on the menu at an Asado.

 

 

Asado at Tipiliuke Lodge in The Patagonia JournalWhen you come to Patagonia, plan on leaving your veggie diet behind for at least a day and experience a cultural icon.

If you’re staying at one of the better lodges, like Tipiliuke, you’ll be in for a real experience, watching the gauchos who live and work at the estancia preparing a very traditional Asado. It’s mesmerizing; for eyes and stomach alike.

To learn more about the art of Asado, I highly recommend the book by famous Argentine chef, Francis Mallman, called, Seven Fires, Grilling the Argentine Way.

Here’s an easy link to Amazon to get your copy.

All photos provided the extraordinary Patagonian photographer, Isaias Miciu Nicolaevici.

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