Latin Grilling: Recipes to Share, from Patagonian Asado to Yucatecan Barbecue and More

Latin Grilling: Recipes to Share, from Patagonian Asado to Yucatecan Barbecue and More

by Lourdes Castro


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781607740049
Publisher: Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale
Publication date: 04/26/2011
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 434,633
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

A Miami native, LOURDES CASTRO has served as a personal chef and nutritionist for high-profile clients, such as Cristina Saralegui and professional athletes, and as an associate of the James Beard Foundation. A highly regarded Latin chef and cooking teacher, Castro is the author of Simply Mexican and Eat, Drink, Think in Spanish. She currently teaches food science at New York University and is the director of the Culinary Academy at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida. Find out more at

Read an Excerpt

I’m a true Latin girl. I love to cook. I love to feed family and friends. And I love to spend hours lingering over a table with them while enjoying fabulous drinks and delicious food. My menus need to be diverse, the food abundant, and the flavors bright and vibrant. Oh, and one more thing: I want to feel as if I’m a guest at my own party. 

That last part is a bit tricky, but after many years of trial and error I have figured out a way to make lots of delicious food and not feel as if I’m running a restaurant out of my house. More on that technique later—first let’s talk about the food and the grill. 

I love the taste of food that has been cooked with fire. The intense heat of the flames chars the food, deepening its flavor and enhancing its texture. Equally, I love how grilling draws a crowd and excites your guests. It must be the primal, communal aspect of cooking over flames that brings people together. 

When I was growing up in Miami, I spent many weekends with my family grilling in our backyard. In line with our background, the foods and flavors were traditionally Cuban, while the grilling style and equipment varied according to the mood of the “grill master.” I recall seeing everything from large sophisticated gas grills to small charcoal kettle ones. However, it wasn’t all so arbitrary. Certain holidays, like Christmas Eve, called for the specific and ceremonial method of cooking a whole pig low and slow with charcoal. And on school nights the gas grill was used for a quick flip of fresh fish over intense flames. Regardless of what was grilled or how it was made, the meal always seemed special.

As I got older and began traveling through Latin America, I saw firsthand how common cooking over fire, or grilling, was. I recall a visit to Argentina where I was lucky enough to be invited to a friend’s home in the outskirts of Buenos Aires for a true, day-long Argentine asado (cookout). I’ve also experienced the freshest grilled fish prepared on a small charcoal kettle right on a beach in Ecuador, and had the best char-grilled pork tacos served out of a parked truck in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Each experience was different in its food and flavor, but the communal aspect was the same. 

This brings me to an important note. Despite common threads, like grilling, all Latin food is not created equal. Latin America is a huge region made up of many countries, each with its own culinary history and characteristic flavors. Unfortunately, Latin fare tends to get muddled into one underwhelming cuisine. Just ask a Peruvian what he had for dinner and I guarantee you his answer will be very different than a Brazilian’s. Yes, similarities do exist, but it’s their differences—like the prominent use of cumin in one country and the focus on fiery chiles in another—that make the cuisines and their flavors so enticing. 

In order to bring focus to the diversity and uniqueness of the cuisines of Latin America, I have organized this book by region, creating menus that provide a taste of some of the most popular foods of several countries. At the start of each chapter, I will set you up with quick pointers on what makes up the spirit of each cuisine and acquaint you with some of its key ingredients. My hope is that this will help you make out the subtle differences between the foods of Chile and Argentina, as well as the marked differences between those of Mexico and Brazil.

This book not only offers both grilling tips and lessons on Latin flavors, it also instructs you on how to pull off a full menu, from drinks to dessert, and still find time to enjoy yourself. To guarantee that you will be a guest at your own party, I’ve created a detailed “Game Plan” for each menu that outlines, step by step, what needs to be done in order to execute the menu successfully. You will see a chronological list of tasks as well as instructions on storage. Because, let’s face it: most of us do not have a walk-in refrigerator where we can store trays of food! 

One last thing: feel free to mix and match. Cook through the book, pick your favorites, and create your own menu. The only thing that matters is that the food is delicious and you are having a good time! 
Grilled Quesadillas with Charred Poblano & Jalapeño Chiles {Quesadillas de Rajas}
Grilled quesadillas are fun, easy starters for any cookout. These ubiquitous Mexican snacks are as easy to assemble as they are to grill and will immediately whet your guests’ appetites. I love the charred smokiness that roasted poblano chiles (rajas) provide, and my “hot-head” friends love the added jalapeños. If you are not a fan of the heat, substitute grilled or sautéed mushrooms , bell peppers, or green onions for the chiles. Makes 6 quesadillas
4 poblano chiles
6 jalapeño chiles
3 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
12 corn tortillas
Vegetable oil
Charred Tomatillo Sauce (page 32)
Crema, homemade (page 30) or store bought
Roast the chiles Heat your grill to high (550°F) and close the lid. Wait at least 15 minutes before continuing. 

Oil the grill grates with a vegetable oil–soaked paper towel held with a long pair of tongs.

Place the poblano and jalapeño chiles directly on the grill grates and allow them to char on all sides (you are looking for the skin to turn black). It should take about 3 minutes per side for a total of about 12 minutes. To help speed the process, close the grill lid. When the chiles are charred all over, seal them in a plastic bag and set aside for 5 minutes. This will trap steam, allowing the skins to separate from the flesh. If you are going to grill the quesadillas right away, keep the grill on high and close the lid. 
Remove the chiles from the bag, cut off the stems, and, if desired, remove the seeds (this will decrease the heat). Lightly scrape the charred skin off the chiles with the blade of your knife. Alternatively, if your skin is not sensitive to the hot chiles, you can remove the skin with your fingers. To preserve their smoky flavor, do not rinse the chiles under water; it’s okay if some of the charred skin stays attached to the chile. Cut the chiles into long strips. Set aside.
Assemble the quesadillas Place a tortilla on your work surface and top with approximately ¼ cup of cheese. Lay about 1/6 of the roasted chile strips over the cheese and top with another ¼ cup of cheese and a second corn tortilla. Repeat with the remaining ingredients until you’ve formed 6 quesadillas.
Grill the quesadillas If your grill is not heated, heat your grill to high (550°F) and close the lid. Wait at least 15 minutes before lowering the heat to medium-high and continuing. 

Lightly brush one side of the quesadillas with vegetable oil and place them oiled side down on the grill. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the bottom tortilla develops grill marks and turns golden brown. 

Lightly brush the tops of the quesadillas with a bit more vegetable oil and, being careful not to break them open, flip them over and cook for another 3 minutes.
Serve Allow the quesadillas to cool for a few minutes before cutting in half or quarters. Serve with the charred tomatillo sauce and the crema.
Cooking Notes

Poblano chiles These dark green chiles measure up to 5 inches in length and have an intensely fruity flavor with very mild heat. Roasted poblanos sliced into strips are referred to as rajas, a term that also applies to other roasted and sliced chiles. 

Monterey Jack cheese Monterey Jack is a semihard cow’s milk cheese that melts very well. It is the American cheese most similar to queso Oaxaca, which is a mozzarella-style cheese traditionally used in Mexico for quesadillas. 

Crema Do not confuse this Mexican staple with sour cream. Mexican crema is saltier and has a thinner consistency despite its richer flavor. It serves as a neutralizer for the heat of chiles, making it a great option to have around for those who don’t like their food too hot.
Advance Preparation

The chiles can be roasted well in advance. The quesadillas can be preassembled and left at room temperature with a damp towel covering them so the corn tortillas do not dry out. 

It is best to grill the quesadillas right before serving, as the cheese tends to turn gummy as it sits.

Table of Contents

Introduction {6}
Guide to Grilling {8}
Mexican Frontera Cookout {16}
Yucatecan Barbecue {40}
Nicaraguan Ranch Roast {56}
Cuban Cookout {70}
Northern Andean Barbecue {92}
The Peruvian Grill {104}
Patagonian Asado {126}
The Argentine Grill {140}
Chilean Seafood Cookout {158}
Brazilian Rodizio {170}
Acknowledgments {186}
Index {187}

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