The Global Grille: Uruguay

Chimichurri Sauce-211x300 in The Global Grille: Uruguay and barbecueGrilling is the oldest, and one of the most universal forms of cooking, if not the most universal.  People love to grille, and even more, love to consume grilled foods.  What we grille, exactly how we go about it, and what we call a grille can vary dramatically from culture to culture, even from region to region with a given country.  In this series, we will examine the grilling practices in various parts of the world.  Let’s start out with a region far away from us, and possible less familiar to us than others, Uruguay.  This South American country has a rich tradition of grilling.  In fact, in its capitol city, Montevideo, there is a large market, the Mercado del Puerto, which houses more than a dozen restaurants which specialize in grilled meats.  The aroma absolutely assaults you (in a pleasant way) as soon as you step inside.

While fish and seafood are found and consumed in Uruguay, when it comes to grilling, meat is king.  Beef, lamb, lamb intestines, pork and chicken are all to be found all over this country, with beef being the most popular.  This use of beef is common throughout South American nations.  It is common for people here to consume a mixed grille, consisting of three or more of the above-mentioned meats, and/or some form of sausage.  Large, sweet red peppers are also often found on the grille alongside the meats.  Commonly found here are longanizas, a spiced pork sauce, and morcillas, or blood sausage.   One particularly popular beef dish is a grilled filet mignon with mushroom sauce.  Uruguayans do not go in much for rubs and sauces applied to their beef, sticking mostly to the use of salt and pepper, but chimichurri, a kind of relish made up of garlic, parsley and vinegar, is commonly served on the side.  Uruguayans call their grilles parillas, and there are a few different forms which are popular.

One is very unique to this country, and that is the form of parilla which has a grille grate which slopes upward at 30 degrees or more.  Uruguayan pit masters use this slope, with its graduated distance from the fire, to control heat temperatures for cooking.  In this country, we could approximate this within our outdoor grilles by building different zones of heat, either by varying temperature on a gas grille, or by varying depth and amount of charcoal or wood on a charcoal or wood grille.  One other feature which makes Uruguay unique for South American in grilling is that wood is the fuel of choice, most typically oak.  Other high-heat cooking in Uruguay, particularly of red meats, is done in an horno, a wood-burning oven, We can most readily duplicate this kind of cooking with a ceramic grille such as the Big Green Egg.

Here is my version of chimichurri, the ubiquitous green sauce served alongside grilled beef, pork or chicken.  You can make this a few hours ahead of time and refrigerate, but it should be made fresh, not too far ahead of serving.

Chimichurrri a la Ricardo
1 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar
A sprinkle of freshly-ground black or green peppercorns

Place the parsley and cilantro in a mixing bowl.  Mix the olive oil and vinegar and whisk this into the greens in a thin stream.  Sprinkle with the freshly-ground pepper.  Serve with your grilled meat.


Richard Mezoff is a Louisville-based chef who owned the highly-regarded Tastes Restaurant, as well as Big Mama Mezoff’s Sauces. He is afflicted with “hickorophilia dementia,” an intense addiction to hickory smoke, a malady curable only by the consumption of healthy quantities of barbecued meat and veggies.

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