Cooking with Fire: Argentina
Argentina seems to be best known for the soccer players that it produces, but it is the country’s heritage of cooking with fire that really draws me in.
Argentina has turned the techniques of gauchos, similar to our cowboys, into an art. The country’s most popular and iconic cooking style is based around large open-air grill structures called parillas. The parilla has a large cooking grid with V-shaped grates that raises and lowers on a pulley system. This gives the cook the chance to control the heat, and keep the food from burning before it is done. The cook shovels hot coals from a large fire and places them underneath the food continually, providing a nice, even heat source that is resistant to flaring up and getting out of control.
The most famous Argentinean chef is Francis Mallmann, who brought this style of cooking into the mainstream after years of opting to cook classic French cuisine in his restaurants. It was Mallmann’s decision to go back to the roots of his home country that unlocked a world of possibility: the fusion of classic cooking styles with the rustic techniques of another time.
This week on Cooking with Fire, my co-host Chef Tom Jackson and I will dive into the world of Argentinean cooking, and talk about the impact Mallmann’s work has had on our own lives as both chef and pitmaster.
We will also give you tips on how you can recreate capture the essence of cooking with live fire with the tools you already have at home.
Tournedos Wrapped in Bacon and Sage
- 4 strips bacon
- 4 beef tournedos (beef tenderloin), cut 1” thick, about 5 oz each
- 16 fresh sage leaves
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Place the bacon in a saucepan with 4 cups cold water, bring to a simmer, and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.
- Lay out a strip of bacon. Place four sage leaves on the bacon. Wrap the tournedo in the bacon and sage. Trim excess bacon. Tie with butcher’s twine.
- Build a wood fire in your charcoal grill. Allow the wood to cook down to coals. You may need to break the sticks up as it burns down. Place a large cast iron skillet over the fire and heat until the pan is smoking. Sprinkle the tournedos with the salt and pepper and stand them on their sides, so the bacon is in contact with the pan. Cook until the bacon is well seared (1-2 minutes) then rotate a quarter turn. Repeat until all sides are seared. Remove the pan from the grill and transfer the tournedos to grill directly on the grate. Grill on both sides until the internal temperature reaches 125ºF. Remove from the grill and rest 3 minutes.
- Remove the string before serving.