When it comes to a simple parsley-garlic chimichurri, I’ll usually chop up a large bunch of parsley, mince some garlic, sprinkle salt and pepper, and then mix all of that with oil, vinegar, and water. The amount of garlic cloves may vary as well as the ratio of liquids–sometimes I leave out the water. After a few adjustments here and there, for taste, I’ll split the mixture in two with one getting a heavy dosage of hot pepper flakes for those who like a little heat. That’s about it. Parsley and garlic are the stars and no one else is going to steal that show–the pepper flakes hardly affect the flavor.
Here is a tip. If you spot an unfamiliar object, just make assumptions about its purpose. Do not allow curiosity to get the better of you. There is no need to dig deeper by searching for a label or, say, seeking out someone more knowledgeable. When finally stumbling upon its true purpose, you can sit back and reflect on how you wished you knew about it sooner. Give it a try. It works with people too. “Wow, after all of this time I thought you were a grumpy ass but you turned out to be a really fun person to hang out with!”
For months, I assumed this little dimpled plate on a shelf in a cookware shop was for cooking or serving quail eggs. Use it to serve hard-boiled or soft-boiled eggs? Butter and fill each dimple with a whole raw egg and bake in the oven? Does it not look somewhat like a ceramic tray for holding eggs? Well, that is what I thought and, having no interest in any of that, I held onto those assumptions. Stupid of me, I know.
Anyone who has spent considerable time in Argentina, preparing their own meals or dining at modern restaurants, has probably come across queso blanco (white cheese) or, as some may refer to it, queso crema (cream cheese) during their stay. Before I go further with this, hold on second. I may be repeating myself here, but I really wish that food scholars, historians, and top chefs would get together to form some sort of Argentinean authoritative collection similar to Larousse Gastronomique. Maybe there is one, out there and out of my reach, but a wealth of historical information about food still remains to be digitized for online access. If it even exists. Whatever information is online, is rarely sourced and the major newspapers offer no archival search for clues. For the latter, the reason is probably quite obvious but I’ll leave that to your imagination. So, we are left with personal interpretations and romantic myths when it comes to the origin of a dish or the naming of one. Do we really know if chimichurri came from Jimmy McCurry? And what about that milanesa a la napolitana?
Often when we judge the traditional authenticity of a cuisine or recipe, we look at what ingredients are used and generally, how the dishes are prepared. What many of us may tend to ignore, or perhaps fail to seek out, are the personal touches or traditions that give an additional boost of authenticity to certain special recipes. Tips and tricks passed down through generations or swapped among friends at a Sunday get together. Techniques that, while usually simple to carry out, add more depth to flavors and textures. A dash of sugar to create a richer tasting meat filling for empanadas or a squirt of mustard to add a spicy tang to a mayonnaise-based salad. For some it may be guarded as a secret ingredient but for others, that is just how things are done. Sadly when these recipes are passed around, many of these steps get lost along the way–whether intentionally or not. A person who sees no difference in peeling and seeding tomatoes for grandma’s old recipes, for example, may not include that step when they themselves pass the recipe along.
Continued from Food And Cooking In Argentina: Setting A Few Things Straight
Quick Summary: Chimichurri does not have to be a bright green fresh sauce. The whole population does not enjoy drowning their meats and marinating everything with the tangy mixture.
While I could probably write a book pointing out how many times chimichurri is misrepresented in the media, here are a few points that are increasingly on the rise:
- Serve immediately or use within a few days
- A vibrant, bright green sauce
- Argentineans love to use chimichurri on everything
Although there is nothing inherently wrong with the first two points, chimichurri can be a vibrant green and some do use it immediately or within a few days, but there appears to be a rising trend that the sauce has to look this way or used that way. The final point is just plain wrong. Would you say all Americans love to use smoky tomato-based barbecue sauce on everything? No, right?
One of my main objectives with this site is to explain to those who are interested, Argentinean cuisine at the household level. The recipes or methods of cooking one might not experience or view on their visit to Argentina or in some form of media. Sure I tend to stray at times or come off as a hypocritical ass, but I try to stick to that objective as much as possible. The cuisine, ingredients, and cooking styles may vary from region to region or from town to city but I try to find the common similarities and present a general picture of Argentina and its cuisine. Since most of what I write about relates to the asado, that is a much easier task to accomplish than say covering empanadas, casseroles, stews, or humitas. In addition to talking to the people around me, I dig through news archives, menus, books, ingredient lists on products, and information given by organizations or government entities. If I give out wrong information I hope that someone will correct me.
Up north, summer is just around the corner and for the past few months numerous grillers have been dusting off their gear to cook steaks, BBQ, hamburgers, chicken, and many other delicious smokey food. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t get the ritual. Is it because most lack the criadillas to grill out in the cold while others follow some local food mantra that states they must eat butternut squash soup and braised cabbage simply because those are the only foods grown locally? As if when ramps start sprouting out of the ground do they finally have permission to drag the grill out onto the open from its dark recess and light the fire.
Katie Alley, of the wonderfully written blog Seashells & Sunflowers, is sharing with the readers of Asadoargentina.com her delicious recipe for niños envueltos. Katie, who moved from Philadelphia to the seaside city of Necochea, Argentina, has a passion for sharing recipes passed through the generations of her Argentinean boyfriend’s family. In addition to the beautifully photographed presentations of her recipes, you can discover the joys and difficulties one faces on such a large move to a different country and culture. She also posts resourceful information on Argentinean food & travel as well so be sure to check out her site. (All images are property of KatieAlley, All Rights Reserved)
Rosa, my boyfriend’s great-aunt, knows her way around the kitchen. After living on the Argentine pampa for more than 50 years – first as a child with her Italian immigrant parents and later with her gaucho husband – Rosa learned the virtues of simple, honest food. No stranger to hard work, she has cooked for hungry paisanos on a cattle ranch and the well-heeled at the Necochea Rowing Club here in my adopted hometown; she has stuffed and cured her own chorizo sausages and baked the most luscious, dulce de leche-filled confections you could imagine. I’m always excited when Rosa comes for a visit, not just because I enjoy her company and her stories, but because I’m always treated to something tasty when she’s here (like last winter when we fried up churros [photo] on a dreary, pouring-down, mess of a day)! Though Rosa traded the country life for a city existence some years ago, she still recognizes that uncomplicated, homemade food often provides the most satisfying and memorable experiences.
My wife brought me a sampler box of three beers–pilsen, pale ale, and porter–from the Cerveceria Cape Horn when she was in Ushuaia this week. I should have picked up a few bottles on previous trips but I kept failing to remind myself before heading back home each time. I’m not sure how long they have been around since I only noticed their bottles in stores on a trip last year. The label has an email account from a national ISP so no help from a web site giving out that information either.
Ok, not really. Spanish Manchego is protected under the Designation of Origin (DO) classification system and in order for a cheese to win that precious title, it has to follow all sorts of rules. One of which requires the cheese to originate from the region of La Mancha, Spain. Nor do the producers of this cheese I’m writing about try to market their product as such. Say, by labeling it with tipo Manchego, the regional equivalency of adding on flavored, type, style, etc. in order to skirt around the problems one may face when duplicating a product classified under DO. However, the cheese pictured below is made with sheep’s milk, has a semi-firm texture, and is probably aged from 3-4 months. So, I guess, one could say it is somewhat similar to a young Manchego cheese if you toss out all of the other rules.
Food trucks offering various cuisines from around the world appear to be popping up all over the place in the U.S. these days–some even fusing together the flavors of different cultures. If you live or work in or around Emeryville, California, there is now an asado argentino truck in your neck of the woods. After winning praise from friends for his backyard asado parties, Javier Sandes, originally from Argentina, decided to take his show on the road. Javier’s main specialties include slow-roasted free range chicken and grass-fed tri-tip (colita de cuadril) served up with some tangy chimichurri. You can compliment those meats with mashed sweet potatoes with spinach or empanadas stuffed with chicken or vegetables. Although he hopes to open a restaurant one day, for now you will just have to follow his Twitter or Facebook feed to learn where he decides to park his truck.