South America Living

The First Cut Is The Deepest…Baby You Know

A Parrilla Primer…

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The first cut of beef you order at a parilla is a critical choice because it will serve both as a benchmark and a springboard for all of your subsequent parrilla choices moving forward. For example, I was guided by a waiter at Don Julio’s in Buenos Aires to order the Ojo de Bife and I have never willingly ventured from that cut.

Ojo de bife quickly became my go-to cut

Ojo de bife quickly became my go-to cut

Not until I was ordered to try the Colita de Cuadril (Rump cut) at La Brigada in Buenos Aires. It was absolutely delicious and an excellent choice as well. I did manage to try a variety of other cuts in the month I spent in Argentina and Uruguay.

Asado de tira or short ribs are prepared a little differently on the Parrilla.

Asado de tira or short ribs are prepared a little differently on the Parrilla.

But, to be honest, I’d have to stick with the Ojo de bife as the most predictably excellent cut for my taste. Bottom line: you really have to try more than one cut… you’ll find the one that best suits you. And, I promise, you’ll love the learning process!

Another wonderful option is to get an appetizer of Morcilla , Chorizo or Chinculín. You don’t have to eat a lot of it because you need to save room for what lies ahead.

Morcilla or blood sausage made from the dried blood of a cow

Morcilla or blood sausage made from the dried blood of a cow

But you must allow your tastebuds to get out and about..and that’s always a good thing. For me, I will intentionally over order so that I can get a taste of many dishes. Especially when prices are low. But that doesn’t mean I have to finish the entire thing. Although…it doesn’t mean I can’t – right?

Please…don’t forget to order the Provoleta (provolone cheese with spices, heated right on the grill). It is its very own course.

Provoleta

Provoleta

I recommend ordering it each time you visit a parrilla. Why? Well, the cheese, which is at once crusty and gooey cannot be beat — and it is surprisingly different at each venue. Wait til you taste it — you’ll be hooked.

One final tip: Do it right. Yeah, you are going to over-do it at a parrilla. But here’s a trick. No one is trying to turn your table or get rid of you. It is yours for the duration. So take your time. Don’t feel pressure to order immediately. You need a strategy. Have a glass of wine or an aperitivo first and take a look around the restaurant. Consider the menu. Think about previous choices as well as future options. Consider what your partner might be enjoying. Think about those gauchos out cattle wrangling in the pampas. Then ease into the meal.

Where is the Gaucho amigo?

Who is the Gaucho amigo?

And just as important, ease out of it too. Finish the wine. Order a strong cafe corto and maybe a flan (loaded with the dulce de leche and whipped cream, of course). And relax. Push back from the table….think about the night ahead. And, go ahead — plan your next parrilla!

Oh sweet flan how I love thee

Oh sweet flan how I love thee

On a personal note: I always ate parilla at lunch time. That way, if I needed to ‘sleep it off’ afterward, I wasn’t cutting into the nighttime activities.

For me personally, I felt like I was on a parrilla mission when in Buenos Aires and in Uruguay. You can read more about my exploits with beef, and later desires for sushi here.

Parrilla Glossary:

Asado – Rump Roast
Bife de chorizo – Sirloin Strip Steak
Bife de lomo – Tenderloin
Chinchulín – Intestine
Chorizo – Sausage
Empanadas – Most parrillas offer them baked or fried. Order them fried. Always order them fried.
Entraña – Skirt Steak
Molleja – Sweet Bread
Morcilla – Blood Sausage
Ojo de bife – Rib Eye
Provoleta – Grilled Provolone cheese – crusty on the outside/gooey on the inside
Riñones – Kidneys
Tira de asado – Short Ribs
Vacío – Flank Steak

In addition to the cuts of meat, it’s helpful to know how to ask for your beef to be cooked. Generally speaking, in Argentina and Uruguay, to get your steak:

Well Done, ask for “hecho” or “bien cocido”;
Medium, ask for “a punto”;
Rare, ask for “jugoso”; or
Blue (very rare), ask for “Vuelta y vuelta”.

Of course, every parrilla chef has his/her feelings about the perfect way to prepare the meat, so these translations are by no means universal.

And the truth is, if you get confused or anxious — just point at another customer’s plate. Or settle back and enjoy what you get — it’s all good at a parrilla.

And as always….Buen Provecho!




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