Last weekend I (along with my brother as co-asador) completed my first ever private catering event and it was incredibly successful…except the chichulines (more on that below). The event was a small, intimate backyard wedding in Pleasanton, California. There were about 50 guests in attendance on a sweltering day of 100+ heat. Thankfully, we were set up in a shady section of the yard which made a big difference considering that we needed to spend several hours in front of a roaring fire and a hot grill. In total, the set-up, preparation, cooking, and clean-up took about 6 ½ hours, but we received many compliments on the food and, most importantly, the bride and groom were delighted with their wedding meal.
Below is a short video I took at the end of the night. The lighting isn’t great, as it was getting very dark, but it made for a very cool effect which shows the glowing embers in the brasero and the parrilla.
Some other observations…
- Despite the accelerated pacing of the food, the cooking still took several hours. It was important to remind guests of the cuts of meat that were still coming and to save room for more. In the end, there weren’t too many leftovers which is always a good sign that you’ve properly accounted for the correct amount of food per guest.
- Many guests were intrigued by the hardwood grilling set up and asked several questions. I explained the process of burning hardwood logs into cooking embers as well as the functionality of the V-groove grill and adjustable crankhandle.
- The adjustability of the grill was exceptionally important because the ceremony started almost an hour later than was originally planned. Because we were ahead of schedule on the chorizo and chicken being cooked, we cranked the grill up to the top to reduce heat on the food as much as possible. This was a life-saver as it prevented the chorizo and chicken from becoming dry. In the end, both dishes were still juicy and delicious when they were eventually served.
- One guest—a brother of the groom—was so impressed with the grill that he offered to buy it off of me on the spot. I informed him that I was working to get the grills produced for sale to the public but that if I sold him my grill, I’d have nothing to grill on for future events!
- The chichulines were the only real failure of the night. Since they were soaking in lemon juice overnight, they were very “wet” when they went on the grill. As a result, they did not achieve the crispiness that is essential for their enjoyment—mushy, undercooked chichulines are not appetizing at all. So I left them on the grill all night and by the time I thought they were crispy, they were mostly burned. There wasn’t enough time left in the evening to put a new batch on the parrilla….grill and learn, I suppose. That’s always the risk when you’re grilling cuts with which you are unfamiliar.
- I drastically underestimated the work involved with cooling and cleaning a grill after several hours of cooking. Normally, I leave the parrilla out overnight to cool down and clean the ashes and grill in the morning. With a catering event, we didn’t have that luxury. Thankfully, there was a garden house nearby and we were able to hose down the parrilla and the brasero to get them to a cooler temperature transport. We also had a metal bucket (with lid) that was handy in storing the hot ashes, dousing them with cold water, and disposing of later in the night.
- I learned a ton during this experience. It had many similarities to my regular asados, but also some unforeseen aspects that made catering asado a bit more challenging. Nonetheless, will probably try it again in the near future!