salsa criolla, asado, parilla, game meat, grilled meat, grilled teal, argentine cooking

There is a lot to love about Argentina, but perhaps the one thing they do best is the asado. To say an asado is similar to American backyard barbecue doesn’t do the Argentine tradition justice. It’s much more of an occasion, with a wood-fired parrilla, or grill, as its centerpiece. On the parrilla will be a wide array of meats, always a type of sausage, perhaps some sweetbreads, and definitely a large hunk of beef—all slow-roasting over coals that are not too hot, not too cold, but like Goldilocks’s porridge—just right. An asado done right is a thing of beauty.

Accompanying all that meat are usually some simple side dishes—sliced cabbage, a potato salad perhaps, definitely a lot of bread, and several bottles of red wine. On the table will also be a couple of condiments used to dress the meat. You’ve probably heard of chimichurri, which is everywhere in Argentina. There’s the green chimichurri made with fresh herbs, and a darker red version of dried herbs, with an earthy flavor that I prefer over the brighter taste of fresh. But, as I discovered while testing shotguns in Argentina last week, there’s also something better.

John John Reynal and his staff at Los Laureles Lodge fed us well, and introduced me to something that tops chimichurri as a dressing for all that wonderful meat. It’s called salsa criolla, and if I had to compare it with something, I’d say it’s similar to pico de gallo, without any of the jalapeno’s heat. Spooned over sweetbreads, a perfectly cooked slice of beef, or, as in the photo, some grilled teal, the fresh blend of vinegar, oil, and onion hits with a sweet, tangy bite. I know I’ll get raked over the coals by all those who thinks a deer steak should be eaten as is—but trust me when I say salsa criolla is the best condiment you should be using this summer.

Salsa Criolla
1 medium red onion, finely diced
2-3 shallots, finely diced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Optional: Diced red, yellow or green peppers, diced tomatoes

  1. Whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl.