When less is more: scaling back your asado January 08, 2013

This past New Year’s Eve, I decided to have an asado with several close friends and their families.  In all, we had about 12 people.  In thinking through the menu, I decided to scale back the items that I would be grilling and it was met with tremendous success.

Our menu for the evening consisted of:

    • 2 baguettes
    • 4 wheels of provoleta
    • 20 chicken-cheese empanadas
    • 3 lbs. of chorizo
    • 1 lb. of morcilla
    • 5 lb. leg of lamb
    • chimichurri and salsa criolla

     

    I preferred a smaller asado for New Year’s Eve because I wanted to visit with friends, have some drinks, and not slave over the parrilla all night.  This menu was just right.  The key was having a several “quick cooking” items coupled with one “slow cooking” item that stayed on the grill for several hours.  The result was a consistent pacing of dishes throughout the night that kept guests satisfied, but still wanting more.  And when the main dish of lamb was served, people were still hungry enough to dig in without being full from so many prior items.

    I started by putting the 5-lb. lamb shank over the grill once my coals were ready.  From there, I knew I would leave it on the grill over medium heat for about 2 hours.  I didn’t need to worry about it, move it, or turn it for quite some time.  In the interim, I was able to visit with friends and family and wait for all guests to arrive.

    Then, once all were in attendance, I started with provoleta and morcilla–two items that cook up very quickly.  These starters, along with the delicious empanadas which were already on the table, got people’s appetites warmed up. I then added some (but not all) of the chorizo to the grill.  I paced the chorizo to come off just as the first starters were starting to disappear.  Finally, I left a little time in between the sausages and the lamb to allow people to get hungry again.  I was even able to play a short board game with friends while the lamb finished cooking!

    In previous asados, I’ve served so much food that people barely touched the large cut of meat saved for the end.  Not this time.  While an abundance of food is common at asados, it’s always a shame to have the most expensive (and usually tastiest) centerpiece of the meal be under-appreciated because people are bursting at the seems from hours of previous eating.  Instead, we cleaned the lamb shank to the bone.  After a short while, dessert and post-dinner drinks were served.  In the end, we had the perfect amount of food.  Everyone was satiated and we didn’t need to pack up tons of leftovers and find room in the fridge for them.

    While the temptation is always there to serve a huge meal and show off your skills as an asador, try scaling back your asados from time to time, even with a dozen or more people in attendance.  You might find that smaller menus and perfectly paced dishes enhance the meal–a true example of when less food equals amore enjoyable experience.