Cook the Book: 'Seven Fires'


Francis Mallmann is South America's most famous chef. He's a TV star and owner of several restaurants in Argentina and Uruguay. Mallmann was classically trained in French cuisine and opened his first restaurant, at 19, in the upscale beach resort of Punta del Este, Uruguay. Mallmann was so successful that he could afford to shut down the restaurant in the off season and travel to Europe to train with Michelin-starred chefs. After 20 years of South American–inspired nouvelle cuisine, Mallmann "tired of making French food for wealthy Argentines." He ditched the stocks and sauces and returned to his roots.

Mallmann embraced the cooking techniques that he grew up with, wood fires and cast iron pots. These basic tools paired with Argentine meats and produce comprise the cuisine that Mallmann calls Nuevo Andean. Seven Fires, co-written by Peter Kaminsky, is more than a guide to Argentine grilling. It's a love letter to Argentina, with all of its natural bounty and beauty. The recipes showcase the international influences that have shaped Argentine cuisine, from the Native Americans to the Spanish, Italian, German, and Irish.

Mallman is a fan of the taste of burnt. He uses primal, wood-fired cooking techniques for all of the recipes in Seven Fires. What are the seven fires? They are the cooking methods that Mallmann uses for all of the recipes, here are the definitions:

  • Parilla: A cast iron barbecue grate set over hot coals. Hibachis and kettle grills are examples
  • Chapa: A flat piece of cast iron set over a fire. Similar to a griddle
  • Infiernillo: Two fires with a cooking level between them. Literally translated to "small inferno."
  • Horno de Barro: A wood-fired oven
  • Rescoldo: A method of cooking by covering the ingredients with hot embers and warm ashes
  • Asador: A method of cooking whole animals, typically pig, goat, and lamb, which are butterflied and fastened with wires to an iron cross with two cross pieces
  • Caldero: A large cast iron kettle or Dutch oven

If you don't have the inclination to build a big fire in your backyard, Mallmann gives indoor alternatives for all of the recipes in Seven Fires. Every day this week we will be highlighting a recipe from the book. Get ready for some Argentine classics, Beef and Potato Pie and Empanadas, and some wonderful summer grilling ideas, such as Braided Beef and Peached Pork.. —Caroline Russock

Win 'Seven Fires'

Thanks to the good folks at Artisan Books, we are giving away five (5) copies of Seven Fires this week. All you have to do is tell us about your favorite South American dish in the comments section below.

Five (5) people will be chosen at random among the eligible comments below. We're sorry, but entry is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. Comments will close Monday, June 22 at noon ET. The standard Serious Eats contest rules apply.