The First Asado

A week ago today, was our christening of the new Argentine grill, the first asado. We spent all day prepping for the meal, but in reality the preparations began on a drive to Ketchum, Idaho in late July when I pitched my idea for a business to import and sell Argentine grills to my business partner, Andy, while Belén slept in the backseat of the car.

I love to dream about owning my own business and have pitched many ideas over the years, but they are usually countered with an appropriate reason why either the idea won’t work or we shouldn’t be the people to pursue it. Andy’s dad, Ray, started his own construction company when Andy was still in diapers so Andy grew up in a family where lived both the positives and negatives of owning your own business and he clearly recognizes that business ownership can be less than glamorous. I, on the other hand, for years thought it is the utopia of career choices. After eight years of marriage and watching both Ray and Anna, my sister, who now works for Ray and is buying into the company, I too see that business ownership is not glamorous, but it still has appealing aspects to me.

I see the Argentine grill business as something that would allow us to serve a very small niche with potential go grow, with not a whole lot of initial investment and risk. Andy agreed so the drive to Ketchum turned into our first business planning meeting where on a single sheet of paper, we figured out the next steps and assigned ownership to one of us to get the task done by the agreed upon due date. In retrospect, Andy had most of the initial tasks and I have most of the business planning which I have not been able to do as much because we still haven’t completely nailed down the supply chain and price (but we are close.) Andy seems to be at least twice as efficient as I am about getting things done at home, especially now with the baby, so I think the initial assignments were appropriate.

The very first thing that we needed to do was procure a grill. That turned out to be much more difficult than either of us would have dreamed. After a few dozen emails back and fourth between Argentina and Boise, a cash transfer via Western Union and a bulky DHL shipment, we finally came home to find our grill wrapped up in loads of shipping material one evening in early September. Once we knew the size of the grill, we started working on backyard designs with various concrete and landscape contractors to come up with a design that created an inviting environment that not only incorporated the grill but also was a place where we could have people over to try out the meat from the grill and give us feedback on the product we intend to sell.

Two stamped, colored, concrete pours, an elaborate outdoor grill design and build, hard labor on both the grill and the landscaping, new flowers, bushes and grasses, an almost finished fountain and some beautiful flagstone later, we have what in our minds is not only an awesome backyard, but also a great Argentine grill prototype and outdoor showroom for the product. The nice thing about it is that since the investment is in our backyard, we have not lost that much money (hopefully) with this business investment as it also added equity to our home.

So that is a lot of background about why the grill. A little more background is probably needed on the asado.

The first time we had Argentine meat was ironically enough in Mexico. Literally our first evening in Guadalajara, Mexico, on our preview trip to determine if we wanted to live in that country for a year, we ate at a restaurant across from our Fiesta Guadalajara hotel called Parrilla Argentina. I generally have a horrible memory for details of my life, but I remember that meal as if it were yesterday. I remember the amazing beef, wonderful wine, experiencing some of the cultural differences of being in another country like having to ask for the check rather than having it rudely brought to your table perhaps before you are ready to end your meal and more.

Later on during that year, Andy discovered an unnamed, tiny Argentine restaurant in our neighboring neighborhood, Bugambillas, while paying the TelMex telephone bill. A funny side story…the reason Andy had to go to Bugambillas to pay the telephone bill was because the mailman threw our mail through gate in our yard. Here is a picture from our house in Mexico to add some context.

Dogs at the gate at house in Guadalajara

Dogs at the gate at house in Guadalajara

The dogs lived in the front yard and one of their favorite past-times was eating our mail. When we would come home for work, we would have to spend a few minutes trying to decipher which bills had come and if they were eaten, go to the office of the service provider to find out how much we owed and pay the bill. Lovely, eh?

Anyway, so Andy paid the telephone bill and wandered past this little Argentine restaurant on the way back to his car. That night he told me about the restaurant and said that we ought to try it, since we had loved the Parrilla Argentina restaurant so much.

Soon after, we tried it and were in food love. The owner of the restaurant was from Argentina and he made asado that was absolutely the best piece of meat we had ever tasted. It was incredible! It was clear to us that the cut of the meat was different and the way in which it had been prepared was very different and involved real wood for coals. Everything that man brought to the table that night seemed like the best food we had ever eaten. I won’t even begin to talk about the Italian food they made as well. (Italian food is very prevalent in Argentina with the large concentration of Italians who settled there in this century.)

Fast-forward two years and I found myself in Buenos Aires, Argentina on a Rotary Group Study Exchange trip (sidenote: next years’ Group Study Exchange trip is to Brazil and we are still looking for applicants. Interviews are in two weeks in Twin Falls so if you are a young professional between the ages of 25-40, from southern Idaho and interested in spending a paid-for month in Brazil learning about the culture, meeting the people and spreading international understanding, please contact me ASAP!) Probably one and three meals during that month were asado served with bread, salad and a sauce called chimmichurri.

I guess I better explain “asado.” From wikipedia: “Asado is a South American social practice and technique for cooking cuts of meat, usually consisting of beef alongside various other meats, which are cooked on a grill (parrilla) or open fire. Asado is the traditional dish of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and southern Brazil.”

And to give some context to chimmichurri, it is basically a “sauce” you can dip your bread or meat in consisting of oil, garlic, crushed pepper, parsley, oregano, wine vinegar and other spices. We have been experimenting with recipes so when we get it right, we will post a recipe.

So I am completely all over the map here today and the baby just woke up so I realize I better get to the point. Fast forward again to last Sunday (or rewind to a week ago, however you want to look at it) and Andy and I find ourselves preparing our first asado for our immediate family. We spent all day preparing (with Andy doing the bulk of the work as usual). We had watched videos on how to prepare the meat (it is salted down and at room temperature before you put in on the grill.) We had also researched different cuts that do well on the parrilla Argentina (we chose tri-tip.) The chimmichurri had been prepared the night before. I had purchased some provolone cheese to be grilled and served as a side dish and some Malbec wine, the perfect accompaniment, which we would soon drink way too much of for a school night.

By the time everyone came over at 6pm, the backyard was finished and looking pretty. The landscapers were finishing up literally an hour before everyone arrived.

Andy started the coals over an hour early to make sure they would be ready in time for the meat to be cooked. The pine wood did not create the coals he was hoping for so he had to use charcoal as well. He is in the market for some harder wood now like oak. A little while later, people arrived.

Family photo at the parrilla

Family photo at the parrilla

Meat on the grill

Meat on the grill

We served the provolone and another side dish and everyone reveled in Belén and the festive atmosphere (and wine.)

Even though Andy followed all of the asado master from the DVD’s advice, the meat turned out to be a little more well done than we would have liked, but it was still really good. The chimmichurri added a lot to the flavor as well.

After dinner, we put Belén down to bed and then we sat around the firepit drinking more wine and chit-chatting.  Ray, Eileen and Erin left and then my mom, sister and I started talking politics.  This is always an interesting conversation amongst the three of us after we have all had some wine.  My dad, Derik and Andy mostly stayed out it, but didn’t flee like normal.

We have a long ways to go on perfecting our Argentine asado, but we are looking forward to the ride as we have many more staycations than vacations in the immediate future, while the little one (s?) are keeping us busy.

We hope you continue to join us!


Jaimee October 25, 2009 at 10:52 pm

Ok, all I want to know is…when can we join you? Seriously? We’ll bring lots of wine!!! That looks so good and just sounds fun!

hoobing October 25, 2009 at 11:22 pm

Let me know when you guys are free!

Wendy Xavier November 18, 2009 at 6:26 am

Could you recommend any specific resources, books, or other blogs on this topic?

hoobing November 18, 2009 at 10:06 pm

Absolutely! Check out http://www.argentinegrills.com or the book Seven Fires.

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