July 27, 2014

An Argentine Food Primer

Restaurant "Butterfly" - Patagonia
The Argentine lifestyle straddles both the Old and the New Worlds. Argentines never go out to dinner before 10:00 pm in the summer, and habitually stay out with friends through the early hours of the morning.

As tired as they might be from a late Saturday outing, however, they wouldn’t dare skip their mother’s Sunday family lunch: It’s a sacred tradition ingrained in a country where most people live and die in the same town where they are born.

Francis Mallmann - Argentine Cheff
 In Argentina, meat has always been at the center of every meal. Most Argentine beef is reared in the pampas, which includes parts of Buenos Aires, La Pampa, Cordoba and Santa Fe Provinces. The secret of Argentine beef is the grass-fed tranquility in which the animals are reared, which, according to chef Francis Mallmann, makes the meat more delicious. “they are less stressed’ Mallmann says, there is no negative energy in their bodies”. In fact, Argentine beef does not need to be aged to acquire the tender mouthfeel that we like in oour beef, because the cows are slaughtered at a younger age and don’t require all the fat that corn-fed animals need in order to have tender, juicy meat.
Bariloche - Argentine Patagonia
Nahuel Huapi Lake - Bariloche - Argentina
Patagonia is home to Argentina’s best lamb and wild game – deer, duck and wild rabbits – and the place where many Swiss and German immigrants settled. A typical meal at the famed Llao Llao Hotel in Bariloche, Patagonia, is a wild-meats charcuterie plate, followed by several versions of wooden platter of grilled venison and lamb, sauteed wild mushrooms, and garden potatoes. On the esatern Atlantic Coast of Patagonia there is an abundance of oysters, mussels and king crab.

Empanadas Salteñas - Argentine North-West.
In Salta, everything (including the aromatic Torrontes white wine varietal ) is about spices and aromas. The classic empanadas of Salta are a bit spicy, with lots of onions and raisins. The humitas (corn on its husks) is made with red pepper flakes. Cumin is added to almost every dish. This spiciness is unusual for Argentina, where most people prefer their food not too spicy – the main flavorings being olive oil and garlic.

Torrontes - White Wine produced in Cafayate - Salta.
In Mendoza City, that would be two places: Don Mario and La Barra. Mendoza, Salta and Patagonia, Argentina’s premium wine producing regions, each have their own local specialties. Mendoza is known for its empanadas, which are often made with chunks of meat rathern than ground meat. Because olive trees grow abundantly in Mendoza and were planted in home gardens and vinyeards by the Spanish and Italian immigrants, olives are a part of every appetizer dish and are used flavorful in Mendoza, so most people in the countryside make their own jams, preservers and dried fruits to eat in winter.

Buenos Aires

Although Buenos Aires is the capital of beef, which such famous traditional eateries as La Brigada in San Telmo and Cabana las Lilas in Puerto Madero and La Dorita in Palermo, every Argentine town claims its own best place for asado (barbecue).

In Buenos Aires, celebrity chefs routinely open venues and constantly dream up innnovative concepts in food and ambiance. The most trendy and fashionable neighborhood in Buenos Aires is Palermo Viejo – recnetly subdivided into Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood. Only ten years ago, Palermo was a seleepy part of town filled with run-down European-style houses built in the early part of the 20th century. Today, many of the neighborhood’s grand old homes have been restored, and Palermo’s vibrant community comprises dozens of cutting-edge restaurants, boutique hotels and the latest in fashion and design.

Tegui - Buenos Aires

Inovative Argentine Cuisine

In Buenos Aires:

Downtown: Tomo 1. 
Recoleta:  Tarquino.
Palermo: Tierra Adentro and HG.
Palermo Hollywood: Tegui; Per Se.
Puerto Madero: Osaka and The Faena Hotel.
La Boca: Patagonia Sur.

In Mendoza:

Seven Fires ( Francis Mallmann )
Nadia OF.

In Bariloche:

Il Gabbiano

For further information, contact us and we will be glad to share our list of favorite restaurants with you.

Argentine Food: A Typical Argentine Asado

All Argentine asados (barbecues) begin with the meat selection. The most authentic asados feature a varied selection of cuts, as well as different sausages, including short ribs, flank roast, skirt steak, pork sausages and blood sausages. About 1 pound (1/2 kg) of meat and sausages is the typical portion per adult.

Gaucho placing the cuts of meat on the grill
Simple metal grill racks placed over an open fire are popular, as are built-in cement or brick structures. Because controlling the heat in different areas is all-important, most people prefer to use a movable grill rack that allows easy access to the wood. The first step is choosing the proper wood for the fire. A lighter wood such as cypress or pine will produce a lot of flames, but the embers won’t last very long – perfect for a thinner piece of meat to be cooked rare. Denser, heavier hardwoods such as appel or oak take more time to light and have lower flames, but have longer-lasting embers for cooking larger cuts. If possible, a selection of both kinds of wood is best. The lighter woods will provide the first embers to begin the asado; the denser woods will provide longer-lasting embers for a nice finish. Calculate about 2 pounds ( 910 kg ) of wood for each pound of meat.

How to prepare the "fire" for the Barbecue
It’s important to always have a fire going off to the side of the grill – a “feeder fire” in a smaller barbecue grill – so you always have embers available to place under the grill and maintain the proper temperature. The best way to measure the temperature is to hold your hand 6 inches (15 cm) above the grill. If you can keep your hand there for 6 to 8 seconds, the fire is just right.

Once the fire is started, it´s time to clean the grill grids. The grinds should be left with the grease from the last cooking still on them- this ensures that they don´t rust. Placing the grill rack over the flames of the lit fire will melt all the grease. After about the 5 minutes, just wipe the grids clean with newspaper or a grill brush.

Typical Argentine "Parrilla" or Grill
Now, it´s time to season the meat. For a true Argentine barbecue, salt is the only necessary seasoning. It´s important to use a medium-to large- grained sea salt or kosher salt. The larges grains absorb less liquid from the meat and keep it from drying out. In Argentina, it is said that using sal gruesa (coarse salt) perfectly salts each cut; the excess salt just falls of as you move the meat to the grill!
Asado Argentino - Chorizos, Morcillas, Chinchulines, Mollejas, Costillar

Place the cuts that take longest to grill- the short ribs and flank roast-on the grill rack. The short ribs should go on bone side down, and the flank roast should by placed fast side down”
Add embers as necessary to keep the temperature at the proper level. Once you see a bit of juice coming out of the top of the meats, it’s time to flip them over. At this time, put the skirt steak and chorizos on the grill; these only take about half the time to cook.  Blood sausages, which are already cooked, go on last – you’re just warming them up on the grill ( be sure to turn them a time or two ). Continue to cook for about 30 minutes for medium-rare meat, 35 minutes for medium and 40 minutes for medium-well.
Choripan - Chorizo - Chimichurri sauce and French Bread
A typical Argentine Asado · An extract from Laura Catena’s book «Vino Argentino».

Here are some of our favorite restaurants in Buenos Aires:

For a Typical Asado:
San Telmo: La Brigada; El Desnivel.
Puerto Madero: Cabana las Lilas.
Palermo: La Dorita, Don Julio.
Palermo Soho: La Cabrera.
Villa Crespo: Don Zoilo.
Recoleta: El Mirasol and Nuestro Secreto ( Four Seasons Hotel ).

Bifes de Lomo en La Cabrera - Palermo Soho