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Steaks, Chops, and Ribs - Argentina: In the Land of Beef

[Do Not Use]DK Publishing logo[Do Not Use]DK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
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Argentina: In the Land of Beef

Driving back to Buenos Aires after a few days out in the immense grasslands known as the pampas, we spied the telltale sign: racks of meat splayed out on a metal stand slanted over a smoldering wood fire.

Braking our little power-deprived car, we swerved into the driveway of the shed behind the fire pit, noting with approval that the restaurant had no name, just a sign outside that said “Domingo-Asado”—“Sunday-Barbecue.” Everybody has heard that Argentina is all about beef, but until you see it for yourself, it’s hard to believe. On every street corner in every city, it seems, you’ll find a parillada serving delicious grass-fed beef, most at bargain prices. But the apotheosis of the Argentine beef experience is the asado, a cultural ritual born on the pampas. There the cowboys known as gauchos developed a celebratory event in which they slaughtered a cow in the morning, then slowly cooked every bit of it over a wood fire, eating the various cuts as they were done. Like barbecue in the American South or cassoulet in Provence, asado is more than just a dish; it is a badge of cultural identity. And the meal we ate in that little shed outside Buenos Aires still followed the formalized sequence: First came a platter of “organ meats”—rich sweetbreads, slightly chewy intestines, fatty chorizo sausage, thick blood sausages—with the obligatory bowl of chimichurri sauce. Then, along with a bottle of Malbec wine, a platter of more substantial fare: Short ribs, skirt steak, and what the French call entrecôte. At this point we were sated, but we bravely tackled the final wooden platter, this one bearing a giant T-bone and a slab of rump steak. We practically crawled away from the table, but we were satisfied that we had experienced the heart of Argentine cooking.

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