April 15, 2013
Argentina Dispatch: Simplicity is Key to Perfect Asado
By David Draper
I’m just a few hours removed from an amazing trip to Cordoba, Argentina, where I spent the week wingshooting at one of the best lodges I’ve ever had the (let’s face it) dumb luck of visiting: Guayascate. I’ll fill you in on more of that trip sometime soon, after I recover from a week of over-eating, over-drinking, and if it’s possible, over-shooting. But right now, I just want to pass along a little reminder about how to treat your meat that I re-learned last Wednesday.
After a fast-paced morning that found me burning through 16 boxes of shells, our guide Mariano picked us up from the milo field for the short ride to lunch. If you’ve never experienced an asado, it alone is worth the long travel day to get to Cordoba. An asado is essentially an Argentinian barbecue, though like none you’ve probably ever attended in the States. Here, the linen-covered table was set in a shaded acacia grove. Nearby, a fire burned where the coals could be raked under a grill. And on the grill sat an amazing assortment of meat. The traditional selection is chorizo or other sausage, thick-cut steaks, and sometimes chicken or pork. It was the latter that provided Wednesday lesson in grilling.
The slab of pork belly in the center of the grill was probably the best thing I ate all week. And that is saying something after the fine dining to be had both in Buenos Aires, where I had a stellar meal at La Cabrera, as well as the food at Guayascate, that continually had me moaning in delight with each and every bite. But the pork was something else and when asked, Mariano shared the secret: Keep it simple. The fatty belly was seasoned only with salt and pepper, then as it slow-roasted over the coals, lemon halves were squeezed over the top. It was sublime.
In the U.S., we tend to get caught up in elaborate marinades and complex rub recipes—this goes for hunters especially. Some of them are delicious, but most of the time the animal we are honoring ends up tasting like Italian dressing rather than a piece of moist and delicious meat. So next time you fire up the grill, remember Mariano and keep it simple.