Grill Baby Grill!


Before we got to Argentina the only
sure thing I was expecting was great meat. That cows would die and go
to heaven in my mouth was certain, but how? I had no clue. It turns
out that there are two classically Argentinian ways of making flesh
divine, one a staple found in every restaurant in every form, the
other a secret only revealed to the patient and lucky.

The workhorse of Argie carnivory is ´la
milanesa´, strip steak or beaten chicken breast, bread crumbed and
fried. What so special about that? No need to cross the equator to
eat schnitzel! I hear you say. Well my friends that´s just the
beginning. In a move baffling to Italians Milanesa can be served ´a
la napolitana´: that is covered with tomato and cream sauce. Running
with this idea to its delicious extreme you can order a pizza whose
base is breadcrumbed meat. We had bacon and eggs, gogonzola and
goat´s cheese salad toppings, shown here in all their meaty glory.
Milanesa is a treat, but a midweek one;
the weekend promises something much more special: asado. Asado is
barbecue, but it´s a world away from blasting sausages from pink to
brown in ten minutes over flames as hot as hell. A smattering of
coals are spread under the grill, which has V shaped, not round,
slats so that the fat from the meat doesn´t fall and catch fire. A
really thick cut of prime beef or lamb, seasoned only with salt is
placed over the heat, and then you wait. The coals need replenishing
every half an hour or so, for the meat takes two to three hours
before it´s ´jugoso´ – not a raw or even pinkish centre as we
would serve steak, but what they say, juicy, in the middle and
deliciously crisp and brown on the outside. I never thought any
barbecue would come close to matching low and slow in a smoker, asado
really does and for pure enjoyment of the meat´s flavour it´s even
In a country that´s reached such
perfection in its meat eatery you might expect vegetarian dishes to
be a little lacking, and from our, admittedly limited, experience
you´d be right. Argentinians seemed confused by the concept of
wanting a meatless plate of food. Even when you order one in a
restaurant you sense it violated the chef´s private moral code. The
cheese necklace given to this salad is a classic case in point.

But what were we thinking ordering a
salad there anyway, that´s worse then the time I asked for a cosmo
at the dog track. The land that invented asado has no need for salads
other than as token sides and expecting anything more is like
expecting Messi to be great at Basketball.
The best meals are more
than just the food you chew, they are rituals and bonding
experiences. Gaston, our fabulous host in Ushuaia, explained that
it´s important to go to the host´s house before the meat goes on
the grill, to spend the hours it takes to cook drinking and chatting.
Almost torturing yourselves with how it smells, knowing it will be
worth the wait. 
Our thanks again to Diego, Gaston and Joaquín. We can´t wait
to go back for seconds!
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