Cooking Argentine food was, of course, very different for me than cooking any of the other cuisines I have tried so far. I am Argentine, and therefore Argentine food is what I grew up eating, indeed, what I often eat now when I actually cook at home. Of course, I cook what I grew up with and that's usually minutas, simple dishes that only take minutes to prepare and cook. Both my parents worked when I was growing up, so they didn't have time for elaborate dishes. Things like steaks, milanesas, pasta, ricotta and semola gnoqui, meat pies and empanadas only took minutes to make and made good and satisfying meals. Most of these dishes reflected the Italian heritage which mother shared with most Argentines. This was also reflected in the polenta with string cheese and the soups my grandfather use to make when I was a kid, and the ravioladas (large meals where homemade ravioli is featured) for which once in a while the whole family would get together. On Sundays, we would go to our weekend house and invariably have an asado, a bbq that features grilled beef, chorizos, morcillas (blood sausages) and also chicken and the entrails of animals (I didn't eat the latter).
Indeed, red meat is so ubiquitous to the Argentine diet (we would eat it at least once a day when I was growing up), that Argentine cuisine has not had the need to develop elaborate dishes. I would daresay that many cuisines evolve as a way of stretching or covering up poor quality meat. When meat is plentiful and high-quality, you don't need to do much to dress up and therefore you don't develop the sauces, spice combinations and so on, that other cuisines specialize on.
Deciding what to cook for my Argentine meal, however, was not easy. I thought first of trying to cook typical Argentine dishes that I hadn't cooked before. Things like matambre, a carbonada (a vegetable and meat stew) or even country-dishes such as locro (a corn and meat stew). However, I remembered that the reason why I don't cook these dishes is that they have ingredients that I don't like (eggs, vegetables, corn). I would have made empanadas de humita (corn empanadas), but I didn't have empanada shells and was too lazy to actually make them myself. So, after consultation with Argentine friends and family I finally arrived to the following menu:
- A picada
A bunch of very simple hors d'oeuvres, followed by:
- Melón con Jamón
Melon & Prosciuto, follwed by:
- Milanesas a Caballo estilo David
Saddled Breaded Cutlets, served with:
- Ensalada de tomate y lechuga
Tomato & Lettuce Salad. For dessert:
- Panqueques de Dulce de Leche
Dulce de Leche Crepes
The menu worked very well, and I would not hesitate to make it again. I served it, of course, with Argentine wine. In this occasion I had 1999 Terrazas de los Andes Cabernet Sauvignon ($10 at Safeway). It was pretty good, very drinkable though not particularly complex.
Argentine Food Links