Chef Francis Mallmann is known for cooking solely with flame in his home country, Argentina. And with the recent opening of Los Fuegos, his only U.S. restaurant, at Miami’s Faena Hotel, now you don’t have to travel far to taste his version of asado, or South American barbecue. We asked Mallmann for his personal take on the centuries-old tradition.
Q: What, to you, is an asado?
A: You can hold an asado on a construction site or on the most aristocratic of farms, but the spirit is always the same: It’s about friends coming together and celebrating life outdoors. On weekends, it usually begins in the morning, when the host lights his fire, gets his meats ready, and starts drinking a little wine. The guests arrive at lunchtime and eat the chorizos first, then the blood sausage and mollejas (sweetbreads), and the remaining achuras, or offal. Then we go into more serious cuts of meat, such as tira de asado (short ribs). An asado is never hurried—after the meal, we sit and talk and enjoy the time together. I love the smell of the smoke, the heat of the fire, the beauty of the orange coals, and the grill completely full of meat and fish, with vegetables being cooked in ashes on the side.
Q: You grew up in the wilds of Patagonia—what’s your first asado memory?
A: I was probably seven or eight. There was a spot outside on our property where the gardeners would have weekday asados with a little steak or a piece of rib. They had a grill on some rocks and a bottle of chimichurri, our national sauce, hidden under a tree. During the week, we would spy on them, and then on the weekends, we would try to replicate it.
Q: How does that inform what you’re doing at Los Fuegos?
A: We want to give people delicious food but also show them the lifestyle of South America, where people so enjoy being outside and lingering after lunch. At Los Fuegos, we built a beautiful, open space with paintings by Juan Gatti that is completely outdoors. We have several different spaces: a beautiful tree with tables beneath it, a terrace in the sun, and a shady tented area. I spent three and a half years working with a team in Texas to design the 12-foot-long grill with a big wood oven, a plancha (griddle), and space for cooking vegetables in the ashes.
Q: What’s the dish you’re most eager to serve in Miami?
A: A big rib eye on the bone that we will hang three feet over the fire and cook for 10 hours. This slow-roasting technique cooks the entire steak at the same temperature, so instead of a traditional steak that’s red in the middle and crusty on the outside, you get one that’s pink all the way through, with a beautiful smoky taste.
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