With all the recent hype about full-animal feasts, livestock meet-and-eats, and outer-borough barbecues, it seems timely to bring up an amazing Argentine tradition with which many Americans may be unfamiliar: the asado.
Argentines love their parillas, sturdy brick grills, but it's the ground-based cooking where they really shine -- specifically the asado a la cruz, which involves flaying and crucifying entire pigs and slow-roasting them over open beds of embers. When I lived in Buenos Aires as a kid, I would walk past restaurants (on the street, or occasionally even in shopping malls) and be mesmerized by the sight of the asados on display in the window. (It's very telling that, in the U.S., you have to read a book to find out how your food is made. In Argentina, they wear it on their sleeve -- along with everything else.)
There is no cooking process more communal than an asado a la cruz. You know the feeling of sitting around a fire in silence, watching the flames dance off the pulsing embers? Imagine that, but with pork.
The question, of course, is how to do this in an urban area, since many of us city folk don't have yards, or gigantic iron crucibles. Apparently there may be some answers in a cookbook coming out this summer from superstar Patagonian chef Francis Mallmann (I know, nothing about his name says "Patagonia" to me, either). His book, Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, covers asados, and while he probably doesn't have much experience in city grilling, I'm sure his methods can be adapted for our purposes. Anyone want to donate their back yard? (Or better yet, anyone who works at Artisan Publishers want to donate a copy of the book?) As enticement, here's another photo showing a slight variation on the theme:
You know you want it.