May 28, 2009

Seven Fires–Grilling the Argentine Way by Francis Mallmann

SevenFires Jacket 

Just in time for Father's Day, famed Argentinean chef Francis Mallmann makes his US debut with this tour de force book on 'Grilling the Argentine Way.'  Mallmann is accompanied by Peter Kaminsky, Brooklyn-based author of Pig Perfect, among others.  South American celeb chef Mallmann resides in Garzon, Uruguay, where he has a restaurant, El Garzon.  His other two restaurants are in Buenos Aires (Patagonia Sur) and Mendoza (1884) and he is the host of a popular show on Argentina's food channel El Gourmet called Los Fuegos.

Francis Mallmann hails from Patagonia, (actually, from Bariloche, where we honeymooned!) and later went to France, learning the techniques and flavors that launched him into super-stardom upon his return to South America.  In time, he developed a cuisine that he called 'Nuevo Andean,' based on the history of gauchos and Native Americans grilling, as well as traditional Argentine flavors.  Naturally, he retained his years of  training, combining flavors and textures, and intensifying them with technique.

The beauty of this style of cooking is that, true to its Argentinean roots, it's not fussy or complicated, it's pure and simple.  The ingredients are traditional, the flavors speak for themselves.

I'll let them do that:  Pears and Iberico Ham with Parsley, Olive Oil and Garlic Sauce…Rescoldo Vegetables (buried in hot coals to cook)…Tournedos Wrapped in Bacon and Sage…71/2-Hour Lamb Malbec with Rosemary and Lemon…Brook Trout in Crunchy Potato Crust…Tomitican (a tomato and bread soup topped with a poached egg)…Leche Quemada (a sort of grilled creme brulee) Dulce de Leche Flan…Dulce de Leche Panqueques…Chapa Bread…Galletas Martin Fierro…

Not to mention Francis' beautiful narrative in homage to his beloved Argentina, the myriad other mouth-watering recipes, and the photos, which are absolutely breathtaking

When I said on Twitter that I was going to sleep with it under my pillow, I wasn't joking–the book is a dream itself, or at least dream-invoking.  It's part guide-to-Argentinean-food with resources and background, part how-to-guide, and a lot of celebration of the beauty and culture of Argentina and its cuisine.  It is just a stunning book, simply put, one of the most beautiful I've ever come across, and will definitely be one of my favorites in my collection. 

If you buy one cookbook this year, buy this one.  You'll be transported.

Available from Amazon by following the link in the STORE tab above.

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My photo of Francis Mallmann's humitas recipe, reprinted from Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Wayby Francis Mallmann with Peter Kaminsky, copyright 2009.  Humitas recipe and Jacket Cover reprinted with thanks and permission from Artisan Books.  Thanks also to Amy Corley and Quinn Rowan at Artisan.


Savory Corn Pudding

Rebecca's note:  Humita is a corn pudding, sometimes with meat or tomatoes, and sometimes used to stuff empanadas.  It' s a very simple and very classic Argentinean recipe with roots in the Native American traditions of the north, in the province of Salta.  This recipe is easy and delicious.  The red pepper intensifies after a day, so use sparingly if you're going to have any leftovers. Also, the grating process is important, it also releases starches.  I didn't use any additional sugar, and it was very sweet.

From Seven Fires:

I first encountered humita, as it has always been made by native people, in the northern province of Salta.  In many ways, I think Salta is the part of my country with the richest culinary traditions.  Many of the Indians there speak Quechua, the ancient Inca language, and the women still mill their corn by putting it on rocks that have been work down over the centuries.  The seƱores still come to lunch with their guns tucked into their belts!

The traditional humita is prepared and served in corn husks, but I find that this recipe is simpler and fresher.  The most important thing to keep in mind is that you must do it only when the corn is sweet and just picked at the peak of the season.  Grate it rather than cut it off the cob.  Only then will it release the sweet juice that mingles so well with the spicy red pepper flakes, onion and fresh basil.  Serve with tasted country bread and a green salad.

Serves 4

8 ears corn, preferably yellow, as fresh and sweet as possible, husks removed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup whole milk

1 cup fresh basil leaves

Coarse salt

1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

crushed red pepper

Using a box grater, grate the corn kernels into a large bowl.  Then run the back of a knife down each cob to release all the milky liquid from the kernels.

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a caldero or Dutch oven over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and saute, stirring until it is translucent, 8 to 10 minutes; it should not brown.  Stir in the corn with all its liquid, and saute, stirring until the mixture has thickened.  Stir in 1/4 cup of the milk.  Once the milk is absorbed, gradually stir in the rest of the milk.  Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring, until the corn is creamy, 4 to 5 minutes, depending on the size and freshness of the corn.

Chop the basil and add it to the corn, along with the crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and sugar, if desired.

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5 Responses to “Seven Fires–Grilling the Argentine Way by Francis Mallmann”

  1. Thank you for posting a vegetarian recipe! What percentage of recipes are vegetarian? Do you think I’d still love this book (as much as you) even if we don’t eat asado?

  2. I have put this book on my list to buy. Thanks for the recommendation. šŸ˜‰

  3. son riquƬsimas las humitas, aqui tienen mucha aceptaciĆ²n, un saludo, un beso de Florencia, desde Bowen Mendoza R. Argentina.

  4. Making this tonight – can’t wait!

  5. That corn pudding looks good.

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