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The Robust Asado and the Full-bodied Wines of Argentina

Argentinian barbecue AsadoOnce you have tasted Argentine barbecue, you will think that the word “barbecue” does not do it justice. Argentine barbecue is distinctive because of the way Argentines prepare and grill the meat, and it is vastly different from the usual skewered chunks or rib sections that sizzle on gas or coal grills.

Barbecue the Gaucho Way

Argentines are very particular about the kind of meat they use for asado. Only the best meat will do, and the country’s excellent meat supply caters to this discriminating taste.

Traditional meat cuts for asado include tenderloin, rack of rib, flank, prime rib steaks, T-bone, sirloin, rump, brisket, and tri-tip. A complete asado menu would also include chinchulin (the initial portion of the small intestine), sweetbreads, kidneys, and udder. There are two important details to remember about asado:  A bull calf is the traditionally preferred offering for this feast, and the meat is not cut into small pieces. Instead, the meat is grilled in large portions to keep the interior juicy.

Writing for Forbes Magazine, Katie Kelly Bell says in the article Grill Up the Ultimate Argentinean Asado At Home, “Grilling a meal evolves into a new dimension when you prepare an authentic Argentine Asado. You’ll have to put aside your gas grill, (not enough grilling surface) and the true gaucho way involves wood coals anyway. Argentina’s vast grasslands are ideal for raising cattle; given the abundant meat source, the native gauchos mastered the art of al fresco grilling. We might also note that gaucho and macho sound very similar, and that’s no accident. The true gaucho feast is not for the faint of heart…”

Terrazas de los Andes winery, Argentinean Chef Manuel Debandi shares some important tips for preparing authentic Argentine asado. First of all, wood, not coal is used for grilling, and the heat must be kept low and slow, taking about two hours to do the job.

He says that meats should be seasoned only with salt and pepper, but if you want added flavor, you can toss some rosemary and other herbs into the coals. Once done, the meat is allowed to rest a bit, and then it is sliced into serving potions. If an expert presided over the grill, the heat would have been so well-controlled there would be no need for basting. The platters of steaming grilled meat are then served with chimichurri, a savory green sauce made of oregano, parsley, garlic cloves, dill, shallots, pepper, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and lemon zest.

Bring out the wine!

Bell makes several recommendations for the perfect accompaniment to an asado feast. In her opinion, the best pairing for Argentine asado is Malbec.

Malbec is Argentina’s flagship grape variety. Originally grown in South West France, its grapes produce a dark, intense wine with hard tannin. Two of her top choices for a well-rounded asado celebration are Terrazas Reserva Malbec 2010 with its “nose of dark red fruits and nice tannins to give this wine a special edge with grilled meats” and Terrazas Single Vineyard Los Aromos Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 “with its undertones of lavender, black cherry and dried floral notes. A more feminine wine for this party…”

Next time you plan a barbecue to entertain your guests, give Argentine asado a try. Crank up the heat, pile up the prime cut, open a bottle of Malbec, put on some tango music, and get ready to have the time of your life.

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