Going Whole…Cow (or Pig, or Lamb) at an Argentine Asado
When I visited Argentina several years ago, I discovered a nation wholly devoted—in more ways than one—to their barbecue tradition, known as asado. In his book Planet Barbecue, Steve Raichlen definesasado as “gaucho (cowboy)-style barbecue, made by roasting whole lambs, pigs, and sections of beef ribs in front of a campfire. This is generally done at the estancias (ranches) of the Pampas, but also at restaurants in Buenos Aires.” The cook splays the salt-and-pepper-rubbed meat on a metal, cross-like contraption that has a sharp, speared edge on the bottom. The entire set-up is stuck in the ground and angled toward a slow-burning wood fire. Not only do Argentines cook the whole animal, they serve parts that you wouldn’t find at most stateside barbecues. Don’t be surprised if innards show up on your plate—mollejas, or sweetbreads, are especially popular. (As a guy who eats chitlins, I wasn’t fazed by this at all.)
Asado is also served with chimichurri, a sauce made with fresh parsley, oregano, garlic, oil and vinegar, and red pepper flakes. I vaguely recall some vegetable salads at that meal, but they were obscured by the pile of aromatic asado before me. It showed me once again that barbecue people keep things in proper perspective…wherever they are in the world.