Thursday, August 30, 2012

Asado, The Argentinian Barbecue

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Asado is a term used both for a range of barbecue techniques and the social event of having or attending a barbecue in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, southern Brazil, and Uruguay. It is a traditional dish and also the standard word for barbecue. An asado usually consists of beef alongside various other meats which are cooked on a grill called a parrilla, or on an open fire.

An asado also consists of embutidos, served as appetizers while the meat is cooking. Generally  the embutidos and meats are accompanied by red wine, baguettes, chimichurri sauce and salads.

Chimichurri is made from finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, white or red vinegar, and red pepper flakes.  You will find my recipe at the bottom of this post.

In many asados, chorizos, morcillas (black pudding), chinchulines (cow chitterlings), mollejas (sweetbread), and other organs would be served first while the cuts that require longer preparations are still on the grill. They are usually served with a baguette  as appetizers.  The famous Argentinian empanadas also make their appearance at this time.

After the appetizers, the meat or meats are served, usually with a simple mixed salad of lettuce tomatoes and onions and  a loaf of bread.

Although not Argentinian by birth, I have enjoyed  many an asado both in the States and abroad.  It is by far one of the easiest ways of entertaining for both the host and hostess and lots of fun for the guests.  Everything is done on the grill and the kitchen mess is minimal.  It is also perfect for a large party where some of the guests might not eat meat.  Just throw some chicken on the grill next to the meat and you are covered!

You really can grill any type of meat cut,  from steaks to ribs.  I prefer skirt steak which is juicy and has lots of flavor; but Ribeyes and London Broil also taste great with the chimichurri sauce.

I am posting a menu for a Stateside asado for those of you who, like me,  live in a place where some of these things are non existent or hard to come by.  The Argentinian meat cuts are different from ours but one that is close is the skirt.  Argentinian chorizos are great but if you can't find them use Spanish which are available now everywhere.  No empanadas where you live? No problem, there is a recipe at the end of this post;  or skip and grill some pizzettes or vegetables.  The only thing that is a must is a grill and plenty of wine!

A Simple Asado

Grilled Chorizos
Meat or Chicken Empanadas

Grilled Skirt Steak With Chimichurri Sauce
Grilled Chicken

Big tossed salad (or Caesar salad)
Grilled corn or vegetables are optional, though definitely not part of an asado

Lots of French baguettes, Chimichurri Sauce and hearty red wine, preferably an Argentinian Malbec.  Luigi Bosca and its less expensive second wine, La Linda, are favorites.

Argentinians are not big on dessert, except when it comes to dulce de leche.  I leave that course up to you.

 Some recipes after the break

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ben's Chocolate Cake

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One of the reasons Madame Mere came to visit us at this time of the year was to celebrate her great grandson's birthday last weekend.  I could have gone to the store to buy a cake but you know me...if I am going to put calories and wheat in this mouth it has to be for a good reason.

I had saved a recipe for a chocolate cake I had seen on the cover of Fine Cooking awhile back and I was itching to try it.  What better excuse...

The cake has some quirky steps that where a bit questionable in my mind, but I have a philosophy to always make a recipe the first time the way it is written.  Changes can come later.  As it turned out everyone, including Ben, loved it.  It is moist and gooey and everything a chocolate lover would want in a cake.  One caveat, the cake is best the second day after all its chocolateness has blended together.  Store in the refrigerator and bring out at least 3 hours before.  You want that frosting on the softer side.

The recipe includes homemade marshmallows that I skipped and instead decorated with store bought minis.  The cake has enough personality and,  in my mind, you don't need to guild the lily. Nevertheless I have included the recipe should you be so inclined.

This is a big cake that I would not make unless I had a big crowd.  My mother warned me, but I did not listen.  It was enough to feed us all, the neighbors on both sides and Madame Mere for a couple of "I don't want it to go to waste" occasions.  I ended up sending some to my daughter's office when I couldn't stand to see it another day.  Make sure you use 9 inch cake molds or you will end up, like me, with Alice's  Eat Me cake! The Mad Hatter Cake!

Madame Mere and great grandchildren
The birthday boy

 For the recipe click below

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Chivito, A Sandwich To Rival The Burger!

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If you are looking for a new summer sandwich to rival a burger, you have come to the right place.  My friend Silvia, who is always up on what's new and what's good, sent me a recipe that appeared in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago.  She and her sister own a fabulous beach house right on the water in Punta del Este, Uruguay, the equivalent of the Hamptons for wealthy Argentinians.

The minute I saw the photo I knew it had to be good; for amongst other things, it is from Silvia that I learned to add a sliced hard boiled egg to my sandwiches.  

Chivito is the national summer steak sandwich and the iconic national snack of Uruguay.  Smaller than a burger, but bigger than a slider, it makes an ideal late-afternoon nibble, along with a cold beer or a minty caipirosca. Flavorful and perfectly prepared, it is completely satisfying.

First, the beef must be tender and pounded thin. It can be rib-eye or shell steak, tenderloin or even flat-iron. I would even try it with top sirloin steaks such as the ones I use for the Cuban Palomilla.  Two and a half ounces per person is plenty. The bread should be a small kaiser or Portuguese roll, with a crisp exterior but a soft crumb. Lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise are a given, as are a little melted cheese and a slice of hard-cooked egg. Roasted peppers and grilled onions are welcome. A spoonful of chimichurri salsa, freshly made, takes it over the top.  Me? I would add all of the above.

If you are planning a barbecue for lunch this summer, why not try these instead of burgers? They are also an easy meal to prepare if you have guests for the weekend. For the recipe click below.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Tagliatelle Gratinati Al Prosciutto

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This is the perfect Friday night dinner to enjoy while watching the Games.  Simple, easy to make and delicious.  You can even make it between commercials.  It comes from my favorite restaurant in Venice, Harry's Bar. where the pastas are the best and  the most expensive on the planet.  It is one of their most popular dishes on the menu.

I will never forget my last visit to Harry's about ten years ago when lunch for four was over $500, and it was my invitation.  Two rounds of Bellinis, two beers, three pastas, one Osso Bucco, green salads and four espressos.  Yes, siree, I will never forget that lunch;  although the company, and the occasion, made up for the dent in my wallet. Since then, I have decided to get their cookbook and enjoy my favorite dishes for a fraction of their price, in the comfort of my home.  I know, it's not the same, but neither is my income these days.

The cooking time for the pasta is for dried egg pasta like tagliolini or tagliatelle.  Just cook until al dente. Harry's Bar makes its own pasta and the cooking time shown in their cookbook is for fresh tagliolini.  Also, careful with the salt, remember the prosciutto is quite salty.  For the recipe, click below

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