This week we are hosting our version of an Argentine Asado. An asado is a celebration of food, drink and friends around an open flame. It’s the Argentine’s version of a barbecue. All the images and stories of asados I found online show a smorgasbord of meats being cooked. At least 5 different meats plus cheeses and wines are at a traditional asado. This week we were only cooking for three, my friend Haley joined us, so we kept it simple with one appetizer, one protein and a dessert.
I love cheese more than the average person. For years my picky diet consisted almost entirely of cheese: mac ‘n cheese, cheese sandwiches, cheese bagels and Kraft singles were the main foods I ate (surprisingly, I didn’t weigh million pounds). I still regularly snack on cheese. So when I learned that one of the most popular Argentinian appetizers was provoleta, a grilled block of provolone cheese, I was ecstatic.
When I was telling people about our meal beforehand everyone met me with the same quizzical reaction, “how are you going to grill cheese? Won’t it all melt into the grill?” All the recipes online assured me that provolone keeps it shape while it melts which prevents it from oozing into the grill. And thankfully, it worked out!
We followed this recipe and it was super easy to make. We got 1” thick pieces of provolone from the deli counter and seasoned them with oregano and red pepper flakes and grilled them for less than 2 minutes per side.
Eating the provolone was the funniest part of the evening. Like I said, I eat a lot of cheese. So an inch thick large block of provolone is right up my alley. As I was eating it I was thinking to myself that I might even make a second one. Then Haley interjected my thoughts declaring that it tasted great, but it was a lot of cheese to eat in one sitting! Dan agreed saying he couldn’t finish it all. At first I was shocked by their reactions, until I realized I was the odd ball who has been constantly over eating cheese. It was like the years of stuffing my face with dairy goodness had trained me for this moment of devouring hunks of provolone. If you decide to make this yourself, I suggest serving small portions as to not overwhelm your guests’ stomachs with too much cheese.
Tenderloin with Chimichurri sauce
Chimichurri is the Heinz Ketchup of Argentina. It is used throughout Argentina to enhance their meats. I bought a food processor just to make this sauce. We followed the recipe we found here. The main ingredient in the sauce is parsley, but it also includes fresh oregano, red pepper flakes, black pepper, garlic, vinegar and olive oil. The recipe called for 1 cup of olive oil, but Dan and me think that was too much. I honestly think we could have cut the amount of olive oil in half. When we taste tested it, the olive oil was overpowering. However, after letting it sit for a night and allowing the flavors meld together it tasted better the next day!
We chose a beef tenderloin as our protein because Argentina is known for their gauchos who wrangle cows across vast grasslands. The open grasslands lead to well fed and great tasting beef. It reminds me of the “happy cows come from California” marketing campaign… I wonder which country produces happier and tastier beef? Unfortunately, we didn’t have access to Argentine cows, but we did our best with the pound and a half we procured from Giant Eagle (leftovers anyone?).
Dan was the grill master, or asador as he would be known in Argentina, and cooked the tenderloin on very hot coals. Overall, the meat tasted very good. Neighbors seemed jealous as they walked by our alleyway cookout.
Dulce de Leche Empanadas
Food science or witchcraft, I’m not sure which one it was, but somehow milk and sugar transformed magically into a gooey, rich, caramelized dessert. By far, dulce de leche is one of the most mouth watering sweet treats I have ever eaten! This is my favorite thing we’ve made throughout this entire experience. We made it two nights ahead of time, and I kept sneaking into the refrigerator to scoop out finger fulls. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make! We followed this recipe and simply mixed milk and sugar and cook it on the stove top for around an hour and a half. You just have to make sure you’re vigilant with stirring the pot towards the end to prevent from burning.
We decided to use the dulce de leche to fill empanadas. We followed the recipe that was provided by watching this Youtube video. I got to use my newly bought food processor again, so that’s already proving to be worth the money. Unfortunately, the empanadas were a tad thick and we didn’t have quite enough dulce de leche to adequately fill the empanadas, so they weren’t my favorite part of the meal. In the future I want to try making a savory empanada. I’m also planning on making the dulce de leche again soon, but this time just drizzling it over ice cream.
This week I had a lot of anticipation leading up to our dinner. All the articles I read about Argentine cuisine were so passionate that I wanted to be sure I did it right. I wanted to make it as authentic as possible. Having never been to Argentina, it’s hard to tell if I would have made them proud or not, but sipping on traditional Malbec red wine and laughing with friends seemed to capture what I understand to be the spirit of a true Asador. Side note, I think I’m really bad at drinking red wine. I get terrible wine lips where my teeth and lips get completely stained reddish purple.