Vaca Entera - Gastro Obscura
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Vaca Entera

This Argentinian cookout involves grilling an entire cow.

In Argentina, beef is a way of life, and a stroll down most any street will yield a parilla (a term that refers to both the grill and the meat-serving establishment) hawking freshly grilled steaks and other prime carnal bits. It only makes sense that a country this passionate about beef would mastermind the vaca entera—a whole, thousand-pound cow splayed and suspended over an open fire.

Grilling an entire cow is equal parts cooking project and construction project. It begins with a massive grilling cage and a dozen or so people heaving the enormous bovine into the apparatus, strapping it in tight, and lighting fires underneath. The full-day or all-night process is all about controlling the fire and using brute strength to manually rotate the grilling cage like a rotisserie. With scalding fat dripping from the flesh, a blazing fire, and searing metal grates, this part requires concentration and finesse.

The shopping list for this recipe is brief: a butterflied cow and a pound of salt. Accoutrements such as a gallon of chimichurri, the Argentinian green herb sauce, are nice but not entirely necessary. The real challenge lies in the non-edible supplies: incredible amounts of wood and a heavily reinforced pulley system. Lastly, tackling a vaca entera requires around a dozen loyal and robust insomniacs willing to wait out the night while tending the beef and (in rural areas) fending off foxes or other animals, all for the love of beef.

 

Need to Know

A small number of chefs hold grilling sessions that double as performances. Try following chef Dante Dante Ferrero for an announcement of his next vaca-entera event. When you attend one, be sure to try many different cuts of meat, which is part of the payoff of grilling an entire cow.

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