Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bringing Argentina Home

So I recently went to Argentina. (Surely you know that, but it's always fun to say it again.) Whenever I travel, I like to come home and prepare a big meal to share with friends that reflects the cuisine of the places I've visited. Argentina was certainly no exception - I was just waiting for the right opportunity to do it up right.

That opportunity came a few weekends back when I was able to reciprocate my friend Jeff's hospitality (if you recall, he and his family had us over and he cooked up an amazing feast). The stars aligned for a weekend when everyone was available, and I got to work.

I have to say, I am very proud of the meal. It was completely over the top - more food than I care to admit, but that completely synchs with the Argentine way of over indulgence. Had to be true to form, right?

The tough part was narrowing down the menu (yes - what follows is the abbreviated version of what I originally had down on paper). Grilling steaks - no brainer. No Argentine meal would be complete or authentic without it. But the rest of it - do I pick from the Spanish influence? Or go with the Italian influence? Hard to choose, so I tried to incorporate a little of everything.

What follows is a blow-by-blow of the evening's menu, including wine pairings (which for the most part I had hand-carried back with me from Mendoza). I've also included some of the recipes so you can recreate my favorites if your little heart so desires. It's written in my version of Spanish (what little I know helped along by Google translate), so apologies to all of you who actually speak and read the language... I'm sure there's some silly "lost in translation" segments in there, but obviously, I wouldn't know. Grin.

Picadas: Salumis (Lomo, Bresaola, Secchi, Prosciutto), Olives y Más Provoleto

Cóctel Desnudo Perro

(Antipasti of meat meat and more meat! Plus olives, peppers, hearts of palm. Grilled provolone with crackers. Naked Dog Pisco Cocktail, a simple, super good recipe from The Pisco Book, which was photographed by my talented friend, Shelley, who just so happens to own a pisco import biz, ClearGrape.)

Empanadas Acelga y Salad Mixto con Vinagreta de Torrontes
(Swiss chard empanadas - the empanadas were basically the only thing I didn't make from scratch. Mixed greed salad with Torrontes vinaigrette.)

2009 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrentes (Salta)

Ravioles de Calabaza con Pesto de Sorrel
(Homemade butternut squash ravioli with sorrel almond pesto)

2008 Zolo Torrentes (Lujan de Cuyo)

Tortilla Espanola con Sofrito
(Potato tort with fried tomato sauce - recipes below.)

2006 Occhioverde Merlot (Valle de Uco)

Mollejas de Ternera Chorizo Tres Maneras
(Veal sweetbreads; a trio of sausages)

A note about sweetbreads: I was ecstatic that I made sweetbreads from scratch, and they turned out to be succulent and delicious. It's ironically the one dish that I failed to get a photo of - so sad! (The one above I nabbed from Gastronomical Me, which had been nabbed from somewhere else, but the URL doesn't work.) But I am a sweetbread convert and will make them again. It is a multi-step, multi-day process, but so very worth it in the end. When I make them again, I'll post the directions and recipe.

Bife de Costilla con Chimichurri, Frijoles Verde y Zanahoria
(Wood-grilled T-bone steaks - cooked them over wine barrel staves, no less - with chimichurri, steamed green beans and carrots. Chimichurri recipe below.)

2008 Bramare Viña Cobos Malbec (Lujan de Cuyo)
2007 Bramare Viña Cobos Malbec (Marchiori Vineyard, Lujan de Cuyo)

Dulce Vigilante (Quesillo y Membrillo)
Helados con Dulce de Leche y Salsa de Cabernet al Chocolat


("Vigilante Dessert" of manchego cheese and quince paste; coffee ice cream with dulce de leche and chocolate cabernet sauce - I guess I don't have a picture of that either, duh. Mate tea.)

Tortilla Espanola
(Adapted from
  • 6-7 medium potatoes, peeled
  • 1 whole yellow onion
  • 5-6 large eggs
  • 2-3 cups of olive oil for pan frying
  • Salt to taste
Cut the peeled potatoes in half lengthwise. With the flat side on the cutting surface, slice the potato in 1/8 inch-thick slices. Make sure to separate the pieces that stick together. It is not necessary to slice the potatoes paper thin and it is best not to use a food processor or mandolin because most will slice the potatoes too thin. If you slice them a bit thick, don’t worry – it will simply take a bit longer for them to cook.

Peel and chop the onion into 1/4 inch pieces. Put potatoes and onions into a bowl and mix them together. Salt the mixture.

In a large, heavy, non-stick frying pan, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Drop a single piece of potato into the oil to ensure it is hot enough to fry. Carefully place the potato and onion mixture into the frying pan, spreading them evenly over the surface. The oil should almost cover the potatoes. You may need to turn down the heat slightly, so the potatoes do not burn.

Leave in pan until the potatoes are cooked. If you can poke a piece of potato with a spatula and it easily breaks in two, your potatoes are done. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon or spatula; place in a colander to drain excess oil.

Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat by hand with a whisk or fork. Pour in the potato/onion mixture and combine with a large spoon.

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small, non-stick frying pan (approx. 9-10”) and heat on medium. When hot, pour in the potato/onion mixture and spread evenly. Allow the egg to cook around the edges. Carefully lift up one side of the omelet to check if the egg has slightly browned. The center of the omelet should not be completely cooked and the egg will still be runny.

When the omelet has browned on the bottom, it is ready to be turned to cook the other side. Place a large dinner plate (12”) upside down over the frying pan. With one hand on the frying pan handle and the other on top of the plate to hold it steady, quickly turn the frying pan over and the omelet will fall onto the plate. Place the pan back on the stove and put just enough oil to cover the bottom and sides; let warm for 30 seconds or so. Slide the omelet (which is probably still a bit runny) from the plate into the frying pan, using a spatula to catch any egg mixture that runs out. Use the spatula to shape the sides of the omelet. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the center is completely cooked through. Turn off the heat and allow the omelet to set for a minimum of 30 minutes before removing from the frying pan. Serve sliced like a pie; top with sofrito (recipe below).

(Adapted from
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (28-29 oz)
  • 1 long green pepper (Anaheim or other type that is not “hot”)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Finely chop the onion and garlic. Chop the pepper into 1/4" (or smaller) pieces. Heat a large frying pan with a heavy bottom over medium heat. Pour in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Put the onions into the pan and sauté them until they are transparent, reducing the heat if necessary so as not to burn them. Add the green pepper and continue to cook for 5 minutes, adding olive oil if necessary. Be sure to stir often so vegetables do not burn. Add the minced garlic and sauté for 1 minute more. Pour the crushed tomatoes and paprika into the pan and mix well. Continue to cook for about 10-15 minutes.

(Adapted from Asado Argentina. This is the absolute best approximation of the very best chimichurris I had in Argentina; it is scrumptious!)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 small bunch flat leaf-parsley; chopped (should equal about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 medium onion; finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic; finely minced
  • 1/2 of a red bell pepper; seeded and finely diced
  • 1 tomato; peeled, seeded, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon bay leaf; very small flakes
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • hot chili flakes to taste (Aji Molido if you can find it)
Add all of the ingredients except the oil and vinegar into a large bowl and toss well to make sure that the salt is spread evenly around the ingredients. Next add the vinegar and water. Mix well. Finally, add the oil and mix well. Make sure that the liquids cover the rest of the ingredients. If not, add equal parts of oil, water, and vinegar until they are covered at least by a quarter of an inch. Transfer to a non-reactive clean bowl or jar and cover well. Place in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to blend overnight. For better results prepare at least 2 or 3 days ahead of time. If refrigerated, allow sauce to sit at room temperature for at least an hour or until the oil, if congealed, thins out before serving.

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