Gentlemen, Start Your Webers:
High on my list of desert island books is Francis Mallman’s “Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way”.
By Tom McDermott
Francis Mallmann’s Chimichurri
1. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the salt, stir until dissolved. Remove from heat, and allow to cool.
2. Mince the garlic very finely, and put in a medium bowl. Mince the parsley and oregano, and add to the garlic, along with the red-pepper flakes.
3. Whisk in the red-wine vinegar, then the olive oil. Whisk in the salted water.
4. Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate, allowing the flavors to mingle for at least a day. Serve with grilled meats.
High on my list of desert island books is Francis Mallman’s “Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way”. I keep a copy close-by, on the ottoman in front of my favorite chair near the fireplace, my own little island. Also, it is not far from my Weber kettle grill in the yard.
If you are in the market for a Father’s Day present, get him a copy of “Seven Fires”, even if he doesn’t like to grill or cook. Mallmann was smart enough to enlist his friend, outdoors writer Peter Kaminsky, as an accomplice; consequently the book transcends being just a cookbook. Through text and great photographs, we learn how to fire up our lives along with the wood.
And, as good as things might be for dad, trust me, he has his dreams about how they might be even better.
In the off-seasons for his restaurants in Argentina and Punta del Este, Uruguay, Mallmann, who was already a superior chef, kept training in the great kitchens of Europe. But, after serving French food for the wealthy as the toast of Buenos Aires for years, he decided to turn his own dreams into reality, documented by “Seven Fires”.
Fortunately for us, Mallmann is sensitive to the fact that pure Nuevo Andean or Patagonian-style outdoor cooking is impractical for most cooks. We need to rely on charcoal grills, barbecue pits, and indoor ovens or skillets. The recipes and narrative adapt wood fire technique to city and suburban living.
In North America, the best cooking hardwoods are oak, maple, hickory, and birch, as well as fruit tree wood, which adds a whiff of flavor. Softwoods like ash, pines, and firs don’t make the cut.
But, before anyone runs for the hills out of fear that dear old dad – or you –might burn down the house, for our purposes, we are talking about hardwood lump charcoal, not wood or the briquettes you see in the grocery store. Crisfield’s in Rye stocks Royal Oak. My own favorite is non-sparking Wicked Good charcoal (Yankee fans, please forgive the choice) from Maine. Two 22 –pound Weekend Warrior bags are $27.50, plus shipping.
Dad’s charcoal grill might even closely resemble a parilla, a cast iron barbecue grate set over hot coals; indoors, you can also substitute a deep-rigged cast-iron grill pan. Some of us might be able to replicate a chapa or flat piece of cast iron set over a fire by using a cast iron skillet on a barbecue grate, or indoors on a stovetop.
Hungry yet? Good, let’s get to my favorite Mallmann recipes.
First, despite believing that we already know how to cook a perfect steak, Mallmann will inspire even better results. So, when Mallmann tells us how to move rib eye on a grill – very little – we nod our heads; says to use a medium hot fire and when to turn it over, we do it. Then, we grab our platters, steak knives, and forks. Forget the Peter Luger sauce!
Also, do not be put off by the title 7½ Hour Lamb Malbec with rosemary and lemon. I consistently slow-cooked/smoked legs of lamb to near perfection in far less time using a Weber and an oven.
We saved the best for last: chimichurri, a concoction of oregano, garlic, parsley, pepper flakes, etc. for which you will write me many letters of thanks. I prefer to chop fresh herbs, but my Argentine friend Carlos Albarracin swears by the dry method (honestly, he makes an excelente chimi). Either way, we win.
Gentlemen, Ladies, start your fires! And, keep a spray bottle nearby, please.