Far from being just a specific dish or cut of meat, Asado is a cooking method deeply ingrained in the Argentine culture, enjoyed across various types of meat, and associated with familial bonding.
The Method Behind the Meal
Contrary to popular belief, Asado is not limited to a particular cut or dish. The term, originating from Spanish, refers to roasting or grilling. The Argentine version calls for slow-cooking large portions of meat over an open flame. While beef remains the most popular choice, Asado is also prepared with other meats like pork, lamb, goat, and even wild horse.
The Cultural Essence
Beyond culinary boundaries, Asado serves as a symbol of festivity and togetherness in Argentina. Families and friends often gather around the Asado, particularly on Sundays. The role of the Asador, the person in charge of tending the fire and the cooking, is of utmost importance and is usually held by the most experienced person present. If the meat is to the liking of the guests, a traditional expression of gratitude is to applaud the Asador collectively.
Asado’s cooking method owes its lineage to the Spanish colonizers but found its true home in the expansive grasslands of Argentina’s Pampas.
Initially, the Gauderios, a Creole ethnic group settled in northern Rio de la Plata, were the first to adopt this cooking method regularly. But the Gauchos, skilled cowherds who later became symbols of freedom and equality during Argentina’s war of independence, popularized this technique, and thus, Asado became a staple in Argentine life.
Cooking Techniques and Condiments
Various methods of Asado cooking have evolved. One such method is the asado a la cruz, where the meat is fixed onto a cross-shaped support and cooked slowly. The animal’s skin prevents the loss of fluids and adds flavor. Another technique is the “asado al palo,” similar to the former but uses a horizontal pole. Today’s most common method is “asado a la parrilla,” where the meat is grilled over glowing embers.
A traditional Argentine culinary practice is to rub the meat generously with coarse salt before cooking. Post-cooking chimichurri sauce, consisting of olive oil, vinegar, garlic, lemon, oregano, bay leaves, parsley, pepper, and chili, is commonly used to enhance flavor.
From being a cooking technique introduced by Spanish colonizers to its current status as a symbol of Argentine culture and culinary pride, Asado remains a much-celebrated aspect of life in Argentina. Not only does it satisfy the palate, but it also feeds the soul, echoing through generations as a unifying cultural heritage.