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Grill like a Argentinian gaucho

Make sure you have plenty of meat, bread and time but hold the spices.
The art of the barbecue, or asado, originated with the gauchos, some of whom still tend the legendary cattle in the plains of the Pampas. And these cowboys have handed off their campfire cooking skills to other men, both at home and at the popular parrilla restaurants, which serve a dozen or more kinds of grilled meats.
In Argentina, the people who make asado are men .Big pieces of meat are slow-cooked over an open fire.The meat is skewered on tall iron crosses. Whole lambs, pigs and rabbits are cooked, as well as the "ribs of cows."
But whether it's an open-air feast or a scaled-down urban cookout, the word is to go easy - very easy - on seasoning the meat.
The cattle are grass-fed in Argentina, and people are understandably proud of their high-quality beef.
The meat has its own flavor, and the flavor also comes from the wood or charcoal.So you really don't need to season the meat.
There are no recipes - just a few secrets - but you don't have to put a lot of things on the meat. It's what the animal brings."
Key to success is the preparation of the grill, so the meat is cooked "not with flame," but over ashy-hot charcoal. And the irons of the grill must be very hot, so that when you cook the meat, it's seared on the outside.
Salt is the primary flavor enhancer but it is used after cooking the meat and so are the spices, beware of spices because "they burn on the fire and turn bitter."
Only beef tenderloin warrants marinating because it doesn't have much flavor.
What often takes visitors by surprise is the fact that all this carnivorous fare - including steak - is served well-done. In Argentina people eat the meat well-cooked.
Half a day of eating
A full-fledged Argentine cookout is an hours-long repast.
In Argentina, friends and family gather around 1 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, and the proceedings continue until the early evening.
There is a well-practiced order to the food that hotfoots it off the grill.
First in line are fresh sausages, considered to be a mere warm-up, something to whet the appetite.
The links are made with beef or pork or both meats and often flavored with coriander and white pepper, you should use whatever sausage you like best(fresh polish,Italian,boudine). Blood sausages are also popular.
Next are innards and organ meats such as sweetbreads, kidneys,cooked and peeled of beef tongue, heart and liver.
This is routine fare in Argentina.Provoleta, a grilled dish made with provolone cheese, also arrives to stave off hunger pangs.
At last, comes the main course, mostly beef.
Popular options are short ribs and steaks, perhaps sirloin, chuck, skirt or flank.
The general rule is to allow a pound per person.
And - it's only fair - the person cooking takes the best cuts for himself.
On the side
Salsas are the indispensable sidekicks to the grilled meats.
Chimichurri and salsa criolla are the two condiments on every table, and each one has countless variations.
Chimichurri is an oil- and lemon or vinegar-based sauce, which always contains parsley – often fresh or dried - along with a chef's choice of other ingredients such as dried oregano and red pepper flakes.
Salsa criolla usually takes in tomatoes, onion and lemon juice. A variety of salads come along for the ride, always including a mixed salad, usually made with lettuce, tomato and onion. The dressing is a basic vinaigrette, mixed up with wine vinegar and a vegetable oil such as canola.
Even ingredients such as balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil "are considered too fancy" by the people who stick to the old ways.
Grilled vegetables, such as sweet potatoes or pumpkin, are served along with plenty of bread and always bread.
With a herd of hungry people, there's got to be a watering hole.
Always on hand is plenty of beer, wine and mate, which is a popular, pungent-tasting tea.
The sweet finale usually is fresh fruit, a fruit salad or flan. There might also be a richer treat, such as bread pudding with caramel sauce.
The following recipes will get you started with your own Argentine-style cookout. Just add bread, a mixed salad, some grilled veggies and beverages.
For macho-sized appetites, toss another steak on the grill. The recipe lassos sausage, ribs and steak, but leaves organ meats as a possible variation.
Basting the seared side of the meat with brine, as called for in this recipe, is a method favored by some cooks.
Another possibility is to cook the meat without any seasoning, and then season the cooked meat.
The tropical fruit salad is not strictly Argentine, but is the sort of refreshing dessert that might conclude an asado.
The Gaucho Barbecue
Makes 6 servings
¼ cup coarse sea salt
Scant 1 cup warm water
6 pork sausages
2¼ pounds beef short ribs, cut into 3 to 4 inch pieces
2¼ pounds steak, such as sirloin, round, chuck, skirt or flank, preferably in one piece
Salads, salsas and breads, to serve
In bowl, dissolve sea salt in water. Set aside to cool.
Prepare barbecue. If you are using a charcoal grill, light coals about 40 minutes before you want to start cooking. Wait until coals are no longer red but are covered in white ash. Occasionally add coals to barbecue to maintain this temperature.
Start by cooking sausages, which should take 15 to 20 minutes, depending on size. Once cooked on all sides, slice sausages thickly and arrange on a plate. Let guests help themselves while you cook the remaining meats.
The short ribs should be placed bony side down on the grill. Cook 10-15 minutes, turn, brush cooked side of each rib with brine and grill another 25 to 30 minutes. Slice meat off bones and transfer to a plate for guests to help themselves.
Place steak on grill and cook 5 minutes, then turn over and baste browned side with brine. Continue turning and basting in this way for 20 to 25 minutes total, until meat is cooked to your liking. Cooking time will vary depending on thickness of meat. Allow meat to rest 5 minutes, then slice thinly and serve with salads, salsa and bread.
Variation: Sweetbreads, skewered chicken hearts and kidneys are popular additions to the gaucho barbecue, as well as chicken, lamb and pork. The star of the show, however, will always be the beef.
Argentine Creole Salsa- Salsa Criolla Argentina
This salsa should be made a few hours ahead to allow flavors to develop, but it should be used while still fresh. The longer it sits, the stronger the flavor will become, and it will lose its fresh flavor.
This is a classic salsa for grilled meats and there are as many variations as there are cooks. Some feature a combination of wine and vinegar, others have more oil, and some are very simple, with just a few basic ingredients.
Makes about 2 cups
2 large ripe but firm tomatoes (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1 small onion, minced (about ½ cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup minced fresh parsley leaves
¼ cup canola oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
In medium-size bowl, thoroughly mix all ingredients.
Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate until needed. This salsa is served in a bowl so that diners can add it to taste.
Chimichurri - Argentine Parsley Salsa
It is impossible to talk about Argentine asados without mentioning chimichurri, an indispensable accompaniment.
Chimichurri recipes are very personal. Although chimichurri is always made with a lot of parsley, the other seasonings vary.
It can also be made thick, to serve in a bowl at the table to season the meats, or more liquidy to baste meat while grilling.
Some cooks use only lemon juice or half vinegar and half wine - try these different versions and see what appeals to you most.
Using dried parsley cuts the preparation time to just a few minutes.
Chimichurri also goes well with poultry or fish.
Makes about 1 cup
½ cup boiling water
1/4 teaspoon salt
½ cup minced dried parsley
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Pinch of dried thyme
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1/2 fresh hot pepper to taste
¼ cup canola or extra virgin olive oil
Up to 1/3 cup of lemon juice or red wine vinegar
Pinch of sugar
In blender, place all ingredients, including 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice or vinegar, and pulse until mixture is finely chopped. Taste and adjust lemon juice or vinegar, salt and sugar, according to your preference. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Shake well before serving.It should keep couple weeks in your refrigerator.
Ensalada de Frutas Tropicales (Tropical Fruit Salad)
The chopping takes a little longer than for most salads (cut all the fruit into about 3/8-inch dice), but it is well worth the time, because you get to taste all the fruits in each mouthful.
Makes 8 servings
1½ cups hulled and diced strawberries
1 cup peeled and diced pineapple
1½ cups peeled, seeded and diced papaya or mango
3 kiwi, peeled and diced
1 ripe but firm banana, peeled and diced
1 seedless orange, peeled and diced
¾ cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup dry or sweet white wine
A few drops of pure vanilla extract
In small bowl, toss strawberries with sugar to taste, to macerate briefly.
In large bowl, mix together all the fruits, including strawberries.
In small bowl, mix together orange juice, wine, vanilla and sugar to taste. Pour over fruits, mix well with a wooden spoon, and transfer to non-reactive container. Cover and refrigerate until needed. This salad should be made only a few hours before serving. Serve chilled

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