Monday, July 05, 2010

World Cup Buffet: Asado (URU - Uruguay)

Uruguay's nail-biting victory over Ghana brings them into the semifinals for the fifth time, and for the first time since 1970. After Argentina's and Paraguay's elimination, Uruguay stands as the only South American team left in what originally looked like it could have an all South American semifinal. Food-wise, it's all as well. The cuisines of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay are remarkably similar: Spanish, Italian and German with some indigenous and African influences here and there. So if Argentina and Paraguay couldn't make it to the semifinals, at least they are here in spirit, through Uruguay's food.

Country: Uruguay (IOC/FIFA Abbreviation: URU)
Nickname of National team: La Celeste (Spanish, "The Sky Blue")
Number of World Cups they have appeared in: 11
Highest finish: winners (1930, 1950)
Common foods: beef, beef and more beef, Italian foods (pasta, pizza), milanesas, alfajores (cookies made from corn meal and wheat flour), chorizo, chivitos (little sandwiches of ham, steak, cheese, mayo, tomatoes and lettuce)
Number of Uruguayan restaurants in the Baltimore area: ummm...
Number of Uruguayan restaurants in the Washington area: also, none, though there was one Uruguayan bakery in Queens, New York I found a while back on a trip. Back down here, the closest thing we have to what you'd find in Uruguay is the daily meat-fest at Brazilian restaurant chain Fogo de Chão.

Uruguay has so many different foods they claim as their own - milanesas (breaded foods, including the surprisingly named "suprema Maryland", which is a breaded chicken. You KNOW this is going to pop up as a recipe on this blog sometime in the not too distant future), chivitos (described above), and various Italian foods due to the fairly large waves of Italian immigrants into Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina - pasta is quite popular in Uruguay, as is pizza (Napoli style, of course) and ñoquis (gnocchi). But the most quintessentially Uruguayan (or Argentinian or Paraguayan) of all foods has to be the asado.

In South America, one side (or tira) of asado is a cut of the ribs, but crosswise, almost like a strip steak. Fortunately, the asado cut is one of the less expensive cuts of beef, and though fattier it is also more tender and flavorful. As the Asado Argentina website notes, "Although often translated as short ribs, asado de tira is also sold as long, somewhat thin, strips of ribs. Chuck ribs, flanken style(cross-cut)." Because it's July 4th weekend, anything even remotely resembling beef ribs was sold out, but I did a hand on a small portion of short ribs ($7.50 / lb at Wegman's). Can you believe they made it boneless? I wasn't looking for that. So I will have an oddly rib-free short rib, asado-style.

Goya has various adaso rubs: with or without pepper, with or without cumin, and so on. An asado in the Uruguayan/Paraguayan/Argentinian style needs to have oregano and garlic. I chose Goya's pepper asado rub, to add a little kick.

The last important thing about proper asado is the method of cooking: it should be done over wood (a la parrilla). Charcoal is an easy to find substitute, so I am using that. The location is my sister's Fourth of July picnic. The ingredients are simple, almost Sandra Lee-like in their simplicity: short ribs (again: boneless short ribs?), olive oil and Goya's asado seasoning.

Los ingredientes

I simply rolled the short ribs in olive oil and adobo seasoning, and then a family friend slapped them on the charcoal grill. After about an hour, they were still pretty raw - probably an effect of the charcoal grill not getting that hot. So I cheated and had him slap 'em on the gas grill that they were using for a few other things. Besides, it got enough of that charcoal-grilled taste to pass muster for me. About 20 minutes later, it was medium-rare and ready to go.

The asado is in the back

Everybody loved the adaso short ribs, which ended up juicy and fatty as expected, and with a nice garlic salt flavor. I couldn't really taste the oregano as much with Goya's brand as I would have liked, so in the future I will need to add a generous amount of dried oregano to the mix. But in general, I was extremely pleased.

Uruguay: Tierra de Carne

The menu for the first semifinal game is set. Now we move on to the other one, starting with the land of sausage: three-time World Cup champions Germany.