Christmas came early for us this year (at least the dinner part, anyway!) We invited friends Kazia, Carina and Julio, Ruth and Brit, and Larry to join us in celebrating an Argentinean Christmastime feast. The dinner: all of the traditional holiday favorites, Argentina style. The menu included:
To use the old adage 'A picture's worth a thousand words' would be trite, but in this case, there's not much I can say beyond what you see in the photo above to convince you to get up from your computer, jump in your car, race to the closest deli and ask for a one-inch thick slice of Provolone cheese so you can make Provoleta as soon as possible.
In Bowen, my in-laws have the typical outdoor parilla--a sort of brick grill that's a must-have in any Argentinean backyard. But they also have a wood-fire clay oven, which is the ideal place to bake bread or grill pizza. Guillermo and I attended a Pizza on the Grill class taught by my friend Shellie, a chef and creator of the KitchenCue videos. Just watching her make it was enough to convince me that I could do it, too. (Actually, I must--otherwise, I would be doing a serious injustice to my tastebuds.)
After Shellie's class, Guillermo was telling me about the pizzas they used to make in that clay oven with such longing in his voice, I thought he needed grilled pizza--clay oven or not! Well, summer is nearing its twilight and we just finally got around to putting some dough on the grill. You can bet it won't be so long until the next time--grilled pizza is delicious, fast, economical and easy. There's nothing like the taste of that crisp, crusty dough.
The beauty of traditional Argentinean cuisine is that it's mostly unfettered by complicated sauces and preparation techniques. This is especially true in the realm of asado, or barbecue. Think of gauchos on horseback, riding over the vast landscape; Andes rising in the distance, cooking over a wood fire with little more than salt and a few herbs to season the meat. This is more or less what remains today.
Unlike its American counterpart (which, by the way, I find equally delicious, but for different reasons), Argentinean barbecue is not slathered in sweet, smoky barbecue sauce. It's simply salted with coarse salt made for barbecuing, and placed on the grill. Getting fancy would be painting the meat with a liquidy Chimichurri sauce, or maybe sprinkling on some crushed black or red pepper.
What makes Argentinean cookery so tantalizing is its simplicity--flavors that show their true colors, and are enhanced by melding together, yet remain distinct. And simplicity in flavor also translates to simplicity for the cook. After all, wouldn't you rather be sitting in the shade enjoying an icy beer or a cool glass of Torrontes instead of stoking hot coals and painting your meat with sauce?
We finally got the weather we were waiting for to fire up our grill this weekend. That weather that says "Grill short ribs and drink a beer while lounging in the sun." Not exactly riding off into the Andean sunset, but at least we have the Rockies and some flame...
This Short Ribs recipe couldn't be simpler--salt the meat, place it on the grill, turn once. To make the Chimichurri, simply combine all the ingredients and let steep. And sit back, relax and enjoy a cold one.
Costillas Con Chimichurri
Short Ribs With Chimichurri Sauce
A good amount of meat for Short Ribs is an estimate of about 1 lb per person.
2 lbs. Flanken-Cut Short Ribs
Asado salt (Dos Anclas is a good brand) or coarse Kosher salt, to taste
Chimmichurri sauce, to taste (recipe follows)
Prepare grill using either wood or charcoal, heating until coals are white and hot. Liberally salt both sides of the meat, massaging meat slightly to let salt absorb. (Don't use fine salt--it only will be absorbed by the top layer of meat and will dehydrate it, leaving a salty, dry layer on top with a flavorless core. This cut of meat is not a super-juicy, greasy cut, so coarse salt is the way to go.)
Place the meat (as seen in photos) marrow-side up on the grill. Go drink a beer. (What I'm really saying here is, after you put the meat on the grill, don't move it, check it, or fuss over it. Just leave it. Guillermo says this depends on the heat of the coals--if they are very hot, put the meat closer to the edges of the grill instead of directly over the flame. He also says you can turn it and turn it once more if you feel it needs more time.) After about 10-15 minutes, turn the meat over. Let grill another 15 minutes or so, until the meat is brown, juicy, and until the edge with no meat has pulled tight over the bone.
Remove from heat and serve with Chimichurri on the side. The 'portion' is to cut between each rib bone, crosswise, so that each serving includes a bit of the rib.
Chimichurri de Florencia
My mother-in-law,claims to hate to cook, but has the best recipes, for, like, everything. This is her recipe for Chimichurri, an herb-and-vinegar based sauce.
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Combine the lemon juice, vinegar, wine, garlic, salt, black pepper, oregano, parsley and red pepper flakes in a bowl, stirring until ingredients have combined. Add the oil and mix well. Store unused portion in a tupperware or a jar in the refrigerator. Shake well before serving.
More photos on my flickr photostream, From Argentina With Love
Twitter: RebeccaCaro, Join the Facebook page fans of From Argentina With Love post photos of recipes, discuss, and get updates about special events!
Matambre literally means 'hunger-killer'--from the Spanish matar (to kill) and hambre (hunger). The arrollado part means 'rolled up', and it combines the components most prized to the Argentinean palate: beef (in this case, a long, thin piece of flank steak), roasted red peppers, a few vegetables (for color) and (you guessed it!) hard-boiled eggs and sliced green olives, all rolled up into a neat little package.
Matambre got its name because the thin flank steak, when placed on a grill, cooks faster than any other cut of meat. Pieces are sliced off and eaten straight from the grill, slaking hunger until the other, thicker cuts are finished. And that should give some idea of the all-day, slow and steady meat-fest that a traditional Argentinean as-ado can be.
As most things, there are so many different recipes and ways of preparing the Matambre Arrollado that you could write a book on the variations. Some people add or omit ingredients, it can be marinated overnight, braised; some people even stitch the Matambre Arrollado together! (Actually that aspect, along with the rolled, stuffed part, reminds me of my Sicilian-descended mother's recipe for brigole.) Use this recipe as a starting point, and then adjust it to your own tastes. We went for the simplest, least-time consuming and most straight-forward way to go.
This would be wonderful as a holiday meal, a main course in an Argentinean-themed party (like when you get back from Argentina and invite your friends over to drink Malbec and look at all your amazing photos...) or as a Sunday supper. Provecho!
Rolled Stuffed Flank Steak
3 hard-boiled eggs
1 1/2 pounds flank steak, preferably grass-fed
1/2 cup white wine, such as Torrontes
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
3 cups spinach, cooked until wilted
1/2 cup bread crumbs, optional
3 carrots, sliced lengthwise in quarters, ends removed
1 roasted red pepper, sliced into strips
6 green olives, sliced
toothpicks and foil
Hard-boil the eggs. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Tear off a large piece of aluminium foil and set out about 8 sturdy toothpicks, set aside. In a roasting pan or shallow dish large enough to hold your flank steak, (it can be folded over to fit) combine the wine andvinegar. Salt and pepper the falnk steak on both sides and then place into the wine/vinegar mixture. Let marinate for at least 45 minutes, or longer if desired. (Can be overnight if covered and refrigerated.)
After marination, lay the steak out flat on a large surface, like a cutting board. In a food processor, combine the cooked spinach, egg, and bread crumbs and mix until combined. Spread the spinach mixture along the length of the steak. Next, as if dividing the entire steak in thirds, place the carrot slices and roasted pepper slices across the flank steak cross-wise--first about one-third from the end, then at the center, and finally at the last third. Place sliced olives where desired across entire flank steak.
Place the eggs in the center of the flank steak, near your row of carrots and roasted pepper, on their sides and end-to-end so they form a row across the center. Slowly begin to roll the flank steak at the end closest to you, being sure to tightly roll all the filling in as you go. Place the roll on the foil, and roll the foil very tightly around your Matambre Arrollado. Twist the ends tightly, and place several toothpicks around the roll at various places, being sure to leave enough sticking out so that they can be removed.
Bake for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. Foil can be sliced to check for doneness (rarity is up to you). Or use a meat thermometer.