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Chilean Asado – BBQ Chilean Style

BBQ, Chilean style

Chilean BBQ with slow cooked, salt crusted beef, potato salad, and salads of grated carrot with lemon and red pepper, onion and cilantro

There’s nothing quite like the first long weekend in spring, when there’s enough heat in the sunshine to remind you of the promise of summer yet to come. At some point in the middle of the weekend,time seems to slow down, stretch and expand like an elastic band. That’s what happened last weekend, at an acquaintance I met through couch surfing, whose house is in Villa Alemana, just outside Valparaiso, during the Bicentennial Celebration long weekend.

With music playing from somewhere inside the house, an enormous slab of meat sizzling on the grill, and ample time to slowly prepare salads while sipping cold beers laced with cherry pop, there was plenty of time to unwind, and enjoy the company of my new friends.

Over this four day weekend, I wound up going to 3 asados, all very similar to this one.

Chileans love to BBQ. They call them ‘asados’ (don’t pronounce the ‘d’ – it’s ‘asah – oh’). And like everything in Chile, they do things a little bit differently than we do things back home in Canada.

They are much more relaxed about everything. There’s no frantic scramble to drive to the store to pick up everything in advance since there’s a mom-and-pop convenience store and liquor store on practically every block, and it’s no problem to walk to get more of something if you run out. And almost every store carries everything you need for a Chilean asado since there are no fussy fancy marinades or sauces to prepare. All the dishes are simple, economical and delicious.

The most important thing is a huge cut of beef. They coat it in coarse salt just before slapping it on the grill to let is sizzle away, and crank up the grill rack to just the right height above the coals to avoid burning. You don’t see gas or electric BBQs here, but simple metal ones that look like an oil can cut lengthwise, with legs.

Ricardo supervising the grilling of the salted beef

Ricardo, a couch surfing friend from Argentina, supervising the grill

Often a slab of pork, similarly salted, and links of sausage are added and grilled together.

When the outside bit of a chunk of meat or sausage link is considered done, the person in charge of the BBQ carves it into pieces and puts them all on one plate. Usually this plate is then passed around for all to share,eaten like finger food.

Salads in Chile are always quick and easy to make, a simple complement to the simply prepared meat. The carrot salad is so easy I couldn’t believe how few ingredients it had. Just grated carrots, salt and the juice of a fresh squeezed lemon.

Denisse in the kitchen, making salads

Denisse in the kitchen, making salads

The red pepper salad took a tiny bit more preparation. It involved cutting ‘plumas’ (feathers) of white onion (think thin strips), putting them in a bowl and covering them with water that’s just boiled. Then Denisse added a heaping tablespoon of sugar to the water and onions. We waited a wait a couple of minutes before draining the bowl. Soaking the onions in sweet hot water made them unbelievably mild and somehow juicy. To the onions she added ‘plumas’ of red pepper and a finely chopped bunch of cilantro to the bowl. After stirring in a squeeze of lemon and a couple of teaspoons of olive oil it was ready to serve.

This red pepper salad is a slight variation on the typical Chilean salad I see commonly served here. When you hear ‘Chilean salad’, you quickly learn that it refers to a mixture of tomatoes and onions, topped with cilantro, not a lettuce based salad topped with tomatoes and other veggies.

The potato salad was just mayonaise and a squeeze of lemon juice mixed into cubes of boiled salted potatoes with a sprinkling of minced parsley or cilantro on top. They don’t hold back on the mayo here. It’s like a food group unto itself. It’s by far the most common condiment you see here. Rarely do you see ketchup.

Even the garlic toast here is a little bit different. First Raul dusted grilled bread with dried ground oregano. Then he smeared a roasted garlic clove over the surface of the toast, and poured a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil over top.

grilled bread with roasted garlic, ground oregano and olive oil

grilled bread with roasted garlic, ground oregano and olive oil

Beer Chilean style - with cherry pop mixed in

Beer Chilean style - with cherry pop mixed in

And to wash it all down, we had cold beer topped up with a lot of sweet cherry pop. A twist on the Twist Shandy idea.

Buen Provecho, as they say in Chile

Couch Surfing friends Ricardo, Denisse and Raul in the casa de Raul in Villa Aleman, Chile

After hours of grilling, chatting and preparing dishes, finally we were ready to sit down and eat everything together. It was delicious!

Buen Provecho, as they say in Chile,for a toast to good food and fine company.

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