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 There is no sincerer love than the love of food.

George Bernard Show



A famous and typical Argentinean recipe

"Matambre” is a difficult meat cut to get, as not all butchers know how to make the necessary and delicate cuts. Matambre is one of the muscles on the surface of the abdomen; it's underneath the skin of the belly. In the US, given where they cut the meat, it is almost impossible to get.  We include the image of the cut named Flank Steak, so you have an idea of the cut. To make it, at home we would clean the meat very well of fat and then season it with whatever you like:  salt and pepper, oregano, sweet chili powder, etc. Separately you mix several vegetables: carrots grated or chopped, onion and chopped garlic. You put this mixture on top of the matambre, plus four or five hardboiled eggs, salt, sweet chili powder. You roll it from the side of the eggs, and tie it together with butcher’s twine. You cook in water during 11/2 hours, where you can put some vegetables to make it taste better. Let it cool underneath some weights, the most common thing is to put it in a big tray, and put on top of it a cutting board and a big cooking book on top of that.  This dish is normally served cold, which makes for much easer slicing and serving.



Matambre: Stuffed Flank Steak Criollo

Matambre means “kill hunger” in Spanish

Ingredients  - One large, tender, flank steak of about 2 kgs. trimmed and without excess fat. 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped and one spoon of chopped parsley mixed with 100 grs. of stale bread, diced and soaked in white wine, adding salt and pepper. 2 grated carrots. 1 sweet red pepper, seeded, in strips . 2 teaspoon of sweet chili red pepper. 1 teaspoon of oregano. 6 hard-boiled eggs. To tie use butcher’s twine.

Preparation  -.  Lay the “matambre” on top a table with the fat side downwards. Salt the surface and spread on top the mixture of stale bread, garlic and parsley, grated carrots, red pepper strips, sweet chili red pepper, oregano and place the eggs on the large side. From this, roll carefully the matambre along the grains into a thick long cylinder. Tie it with butcher’s twine at one-inch intervals. Place the rolled flank steak in a large steel casserole. Add enough fresh water to come a third of the way up the roll. Boil during an hour and half or until the meat is tender.

Remove the matambre and press it under weights, then refrigerate thoroughly and serve slices of 1/3 inch with the classic “ensalada rusa”, tomatoes salad, et cetera…


The Criollo Asado

Without any doubt, no Argentine dishes have been more talked about than the asados. This happens because local custom knows no limits whenever ready to prepare an asado, or an open charcoal fire grill.

The best tender cuts of selected beef are used for the most asados, as well as a wide variety of entrails and other tidbits. The beef usually goes on the grill with no previous preparation at all; purists omit even a slight sprinkling with salt. Seasonings add to the asado only after it is ready and on the plate, not before. 

The technique rather relates to the mechanic of the preparation of the fire and other elements than to the getting ready and the cooking of the meats themselves. That is, the care takes to see that the embers are glowing, giving off an even heat without flare-ups so that the several meats will evenly cooked on both sides. In the Argentine, the general run of the people prefers all grilled meats well cooked and at the same time very juicy. Beef or other meats, done rare or half cooked are not liked and most people reject them. On the other hand, entrails and other variety of meats are very much enjoyed as part of the asado and considered an indispensable part of it. These are also well cooked to a juicy tenderness, crisply browned on the outside.

For a few cuts of meat, beef as well as pork, which is always very well done, marinating is a common practice, especially if the cuts are not the tender and flavorful ones, steeping them in a vinegar and brine solution, with spices and herbs, is the usual way to tenderize and give them an additional flavor. This practice may take from just a few minutes, before the meats are placed on the grill, upon to an overnight soaking. In the case of some game meat, this soaking may take even up to several days.

The usual proportions for an Argentine style asado are not difficult to set: a generous half a kilo of diverse meats allowable per person, if a large group is to be entertained. For a small group of people the usual meat allowance is more difficult to establish, for the preferences of the host must take into account. A somewhat larger proportion than that indicated for the large group will not be out of place, considering that in a small group people will tend to consume a little more of everything.

According to a widespread custom, a homemade open fire grill, or “parrillada”, will do in three stages.

  •  First to go in the grill will be the chorizos and black sausages (morcillas), then will follow the entrails and other variety meats, and last of all come the larger cuts of beef or other meats, or the asado proper which are always served last.

All grilled meats are served immediately after being taken off the fire. With asado, several kinds of salad may be served: Usually a green salad, as well as a cooked one, plenty of bread, relishes and sauce, among which the “chimichurri” figures prominently.

The “chimichurri” is always a homemade sauce, reflects the host’s preference. It may, or it may be not hot. Any asado will end with a dessert of fresh fruits, prepared as a macedonia-salad or not.



Roasts on a Spit

Even if the original asado was a roast on a spit, made around a large fire in the open country to cook a freshly killed animal, which was consumed on the spot right away, this is no longer the way to prepare it. The open fire spit roast is prepared for very special occasions. Great and important asados require large amount of all kind of meats, needs specialized personnel to attend to a large number of people.


Roasts o a Grill

It is the most popular of all preparation for family gathering. Weekends are the proper time for the usual homemade parrillada or the open fire roast on a grill. It requires two essential elements: a large grill or parrilla with plenty of glowing embers under it and a large amount of all kinds of meats fit for grilling. The usual apportionment runs to a half a kilo of diverse meats per person.

The fire is also an all-important ingredient: it should be ready to cook the meats when embers are glowing, without traces of smoke, covered with a slight film of white cinders.

Once the fire is ready, the parrilla or grill goes over the fire, so that it can be cleaned of all greases and grit after it has been heated through. To clean it, just rub vigorously with some strong paper or dry cloth. Then, grease its surface slightly with some of the fat trimmings, either beef or pork, and when very hot it is ready. Now, place on it the several meats to be grilled, the embers at a suitable distance underneath.

Not all the meats are placed over the fire at the same time. Chorizos and black sausages should go on the grill first of all, not only because they’ll take some more time to be ready, but also because they’ll be served before anything else. Entrails or variety meats will follow, if any, and finally the larger cuts or steaks and churrascos.

When a large cut of beef is being grilled, one of those that will take a log time to cook, the chorizos will go on the parrilla later so as to be ready before the larger cut is cooked.

For instance, in the case of an asado of an entire open lamb, which would normally take about three hours to be ready, the chorizos will go on the grill only when some forty minutes left for the lamb to do. 



These are rather thin beefsteaks, tender and without any bones, grilled on a parrilla or on a hot griddle in just a few minutes. Then usually take no seasoning before cooking. Salt and pepper only when the churrasco is on the plate.

Home cooking prefers them on the small side; of average weight under hundred grams, to quickly done and one or two, perhaps even more, are prepared per person. When cooked on a hot iron plate or griddle, this is slightly greased to prevent sticking. Green salads and fried a mashed potatoes, with any preferred relishes are served with churrascos.



Grilled Steaks

Home cooking calls them “bifes” and prefers them quickly done over a big fire, so that they will be served with their full natural juicy. Thin or thick, the time they will take to be ready depends on taste. Longer cooking tends to dry them. Steaks will be grilled completely, no cuts being made to cook them in a short time. To tell them apart from churrascos, consider that bifes are usually thicker, may include bones in the cut, are of tender cuts of beef and will take a bit longer to cook. Tender cuts are seasoned after cooking.  Flavorful cuts will just take salt and a little pepper, when the bife is already on the plate.

Another technique to season bifes is to proceed along the following points: 

  • Prepare a light brine solution with one-teaspoon coarse salt and one cup of warm water.
  • Sprinkle this solution over the steaks while grilling them with the help of a fresh sprig of green parsley, celery, fennel, bay leaf, rosemary, oregano or other herbs.
  • See that sprinkling is done over cooked surfaces, never over any uncooked portion of a steak.

Still yet another alternative procedure to avoid unwanted drying up of the “bife” while grilling calls for oiling lightly, no salt added, and perhaps a hint of an aromatic herb. Steaks, as well as churrascos, are also cooked in a hot griddle plate or iron, lightly greased with a little animal or vegetable fat.


Short Ribs Roast

Short ribs are the most popular cut of beef for the asado a la parrilla, or open fire grill. Usually cut in strips of some 10 centimeter wide, and separated in lengths of about 40 centimeter average, it is mostly known as asado de tira or short ribs in strips. It is a rather rich cut, flavorful, easily prepared and quick to be cooked. Argentines never consume freshly butchered beef. However, aged beef is not sought after. The preferred beef is the one that has been butchered sometime before the last 24 hours. 

The procedure is very simple. Once the embers are ready, the short ribs strips are placed on a sizzling hot grill, with the bones resting on the grill to receive first all the heat. After the bone side has turned a good brown color, time will depend on the thickness of the bones, the strips are turned over and the meat side is then cooked. 

The brine solution is always sprinkled over the cooked parts, with he help of a fresh sprig of parsley, and that is all. No further seasoning is required while cooking. Should the ribs come from a young animal, and so are tender with just a little fat, quick cooking over a brisk fire without any previous seasoning would be the experts’ suggestion. Season the asado on the plate with any of uncooked sauces such as chimichurri, hot or not, or adding simply salt.


Grilled Chorizos and Black Sausages

In Argentina chorizos are prepared with a ground meat mainly, pork fat, sometimes with an addition of beef, with mild condiment and encased in pork sausage skins. Spiced chorizos not commonly sold, are especially ordered. Spanish style chorizos colorados, may also be found. 

All asados begin when the chorizos are ready. The usual count is of one per person, to serve together with black sausage, morcillas, which go, if small, at about half per person. 

To prevent bursting of the chorizo skins, it is usually to soak them in fresh water, to wet the casings. Another method is to pierce the skins with the tines of a fork, to let the fat out and thus prevent the skins from crackling while on the grill.  Chorizos are browed first over a brisk fire, then grilled over a low fire until done, crisp outside and mildly dry inside. Some people cook them the other way around, first over a low fire until almost done to finish them over a brisk fire until nicely browed. Since chorizos are made with mostly pork, or all pork meat, they should be always well done. 

Black sausages or morcillas do not require any soaking or any piercing, before going over the fire. The usual way to grill them is to heat them over a low fire, to just warm them through and only heated with the outside crisped, while juicy inside, never dry. If placed over a brisk fire they will dry out soon and burst easily even while on the grill. Both chorizos and morcillas serve hot, just from the grill. Served cold, they also make excellent addition to a buffet or cocktail.



Pasqualino Marchese, diciembre 2006


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Última modificación: 17 de octubre de 2014