Last night, we invited our next-door neighbors M & A and kids over for dinner. They had prepared a traditional Iranian meal for us a few weeks back and we decided to do an Argentinean dinner to reciprocate. After a week of careful planning – recipe research (from my mother-in-law), looking for ingredients all around Marbella and making do with our Weber grill instead of a parrilla (Argentine grill), we managed to re-create a near-authentic (at least food wise) experience for them.
As most Argentine meals are rustic outdoor set-ups where a large wooden table is set right beside the grill in a shady area of the garden, we opened all our sliding doors to let the outside in and first had aperitifs and appetizers on the terrace followed by the asado (grilled meat bien sur) indoors at sundown which is around half past nine anyway. The table was set with a place mat, a square plate, simple cutlery – forks and Laguiole steak knives, a linen napkin and some rosemary plants in terra-cotta pots as centerpieces.
To start we had empanadas de choclo (corn) y empanadas de carne (mince) along with Provoleta (grilled Provolone cheese) and chunks of baguette. The fried empanadas (we prefer these to the baked ones) were hot and crispy on the outside – the meat ones were either dipped in a bit of sugar or eaten with salsa chimichurri (oregano-based sauce for grilled meat) while the corn ones were eaten plain.
As soon as the appetizers were finished and the grill was ready, A prepared the three cuts of meat: entraña (skirt steak), asado de tira (short ribs) and bife de costilla (T-bone or Porterhouse steak). As we don’t have a proper parrilla (grill) which can be lowered and raised depending on the heat of the coals, it was more difficult to ensure that the meat stayed red and juicy on the outside while not completely burning the outside. The grill sparked up with flames a few times but my Argentine husband managed to keep the flames to a minimum and cook the meat to medium-rare. We had two salads with the meats: a beet-carrot-egg salad and sort of a Waldorf salad of celery, apple, pear and walnut – both popular in Argentina. We also had some papas rejilla (crisscut fries) which are similar to potato chips to accompany the meat. I didn’t have time to drop by the wine store in Marbella and see what Argentine wines they had so instead of the traditional malbec, we had an excellent Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero.
After dinner, we went back to the terrace for more conversation and to wait a but before the extra-sweet dessert we were going to have – mousse de dulce de leche (caramelized milk mousse). Much-needed espressos followed until we realized it was past midnight and time for the kids to go to bed.
- 1 Tbsp. oregano, crushed (fresh is better but dried works fine as well)
- 1 bay leaf, crushed
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary, crush the leaves
- a handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- 1 tsp. ground red chili flakes or to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
- sea salt and freshly-ground pepper
- 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil (if you want a milder flavor, use vegetable oil)
Soak all ingredients in the vinegar and water. Leave for at least an hour then add the oil. Adjust seasoning and serve with meat empanadas and grilled meat.
*If you’re in a rush, get some of the ready-mixed dry chimichurri herbs that you add water and vinegar to, set aside for an hour or so, add oil and it’s ready. I’ve used this many times and the result is very good.
Mousse de Dulce de Leche
- 1 bottle of Dulce de Leche (about 454 grams) – buy the best that you can find. (*I use either La Salamandra or Havanna)
- 454 grams of whipped cream (in other words, equal amount of whipped cream and dulce de leche)
- Crushed meringues
Crush the meringues and line the bottom of a large bowl, a serving dish or any container that you would like to present the mousse in Whip the cream until stiff. Add a dollop of dulce de leche to the whipped cream and whisk in. Gently fold in the rest of the dulce de leche. Make sure that the two are mixed together. Transfer into container then chill in the fridge for at least a few hours or better yet, overnight. When the mousse is solid, top with a few walnuts. Serve very cold.