Region: 
Córdoba
Regional dish information
Flavours of the region: 

Regional Cordobesa Food

Dr.Javier Negri

Referring to “cordobesa” as the traditional gastronomic culture from Argentina’s Mediterranean area is probably wrong, given that the cooking habits of central Argentina do not restrict themselves to the geographic boundaries of that province. Nonetheless, we will keep using cordobesa even though it might be unfair to the adjacent regions.

Now that we have clarified the geographical area, we will start identifying the common features that distinguish cordobesa food from the rest of the country. As always, the culinary identity of a region is directly connected to the resources available. The Mediterranean agricultural production does not feature the abundance from the Pampa’s most fertile areas (grazing cattle can be more difficult in arid regions), nor the magnificent rivers from the Litoral or the ports on the Atlantic Ocean that could provide fish and seafood. This is the reason why cordobesa food is identified by the simplicity of its ingredients: the hunting pieces and a few agricultural products such as corn which is essential for mazamorra, locro and some other homemade stews.

The center of Argentina is a semi arid region of barren woodlands which constitutes a natural habitat for goats and kids. The kid is a rustic animal which suffers from few diseases and whose meat features an excellent virtue: it does not need to be aged. So, unlike other meats, kid meat can be grilled right after slaughter and does not need to be seasoned; only some salt is enough (unlike lamb or pork). “Espinillo” abounds in the Mediterranean region providing the best logs for grill cooking. Therefore, not much more is required to make grilled kid the cordobés dish par excellence. The chanfaina is also worth mentioning-another regional food that is prepared using kid blood and its giblets which are called chunchula.

The beef shortage or the difficulty involved in its conservation (when there were neither refrigerators nor the electric power to make them work), brought about the existence of charqui : salty meat dried in the sun. The dry weather of this semi arid region is ideal for its preparation.

Given that Cordoba is very close to Tucumán, sugar is a constant ingredient in its regional food. It is not only used in the preparation of marmalades and typical desserts but also in regional liquors (milk and egg liquors) and in empanada’s filling (according to older recipes it takes as much sugar as salt or paprika) or carbonada, the already mentioned chanfaina, humita or locro. In Córdoba, all these dishes take sugar and a lot of it! Many foreign people complain that Argentine desserts are too sweet; well, in the Mediterranean area they are even sweeter!

A suitable description for Cordobesa food, no matter how brief, should include the different stages of its development and evolution. As we have already mentioned, farm products have been the basic ingredients of the traditional food. Some of them, for example, locro in its plainest version, (meaning without meat) or the charqui or chastaca are of Incaic origin. The migratory currents and the development of communications contributed to the incorporation of new foods and ingredients without eliminating the colonial base. This was the case of locro to which beef was subsequently added and also chicken which gave birth to the traditional cordobesa food called “perico vicente”. Something similar happened with mazamorra whose main ingredient was white milled maize, which was originally a side dish. Then, as migratory influence and the products availability developed, locro started to incorporate new ingredients. 

The Mediterranean region has received Italian, Jewish, Arab and German immigrants. All of them have left their heritage: the peninsular colonies in Caroya, for example, are famous for the preparation of salamanes and hams of Italian origin. The Germans left the Octoberfest in the area of Calamuchita (Villa General Belgrano and La Cumbrecita); the Arab empanadas and the niño envuelto (rolled beef with vegetable filling) of Levantino origin are very common in the region.

The growing interest from Argentine people to know the roots of their country and families has brought about the reassessment of old family recipes. The Mediterranean region preserves the old colonial food but has also incorporated traditional food from migratory currents that subsequently arrived in the region. Not many places in Argentina feature such a cooking variety as the Mediterranean region. Buenos Aires can be proud of the variety and quality of its cookery but Córdoba also preserves the worship to the traditional criolla food.

Recipes: 

Cabrito al Asador (Grilled Baby Goat)

The kid is a typical seasonal dish of Córdoba. In spring, it is customary to roast and eat these tasty animals by the fire, accompanied by wine and a loaf of bread.

Ingredients (12 servings):

1 baby goat
2 lemons
6 cloves of garlic
Coarse salt
Hot water

Cut baby goat in the middle, gut it and let cool for a few hours covered by a handful of coarse salt.

Prepare brine with coarse salt, hot water, chopped garlic and lemon juice.

Make a wood fire on the ground, and hook goat onto the grill with tweezers and wire. Place it with the ribs facing down on a sloping incline and roast it over a low fire for approximately 4 hours. Turn it around just once. Brush it regularly with brine. Remove and serve or eat by the fire.

Colaciones (Pastry)

Colaciones are a bite-sized pastries stuffed with dulce de leche, a typical Argentine product, that are covered by a thin layer of sugar icing. 

Ingredients (4 servings):

200 gr. powdered sugar 
100 gr. flour 
20 gr. cornstarch 
1 tsp. baking powder 
4 egg yolks
20 gr. sugar 
250 gr. pastry dulce de leche

Preparation:

Combine flour, cornstarch and baking powder. Mold into a volcano-shaped dough and incorporate the yolks one by one in the crater with the sugar and a tbsp. of water. Integrate the ingredients with your hands, making a homogeneous and smooth dough. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 min.

Roll dough with a rolling pin on a floured surface. Cut into circles of 5-cm molds and stretch to an oval shape. Place the oval discs on a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Spread a generous tablespoon of dulce de leche (milk caramel) on each cap. Set aside. 

To make the glaze, mix sugar with two tablespoons of hot water and whisk vigorously into a white blend. Cover the caps with a spoon and set aside

Locro Cordobés

Locro is a dish common to much of the Argentine Republic, although each area has its particular preparation. The following is typical of the province of Córdoba.

Ingredients (6 servings):

800 gr. trodden corn
300 gr. white beans
300 gr. pumpkin
1 chicken
2 peppers
3 onions
3 ripe tomatoes
2 tbsp. grease
1 sprig of parsley
1 tsp. powdered chili pepper
1 tsp. paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

In a saucepan, soak the beans and the trodden corn in water overnight. The next day, boil for about an hour. 

Add cleaned and chopped chicken together with the diced pumpkin. Cook until the pumpkin is ready. 

Separately, peel and chop the onion, pepper, and tomatoes into cubes, and fry in grease. Season with salt, pepper, paprika and powdered chili pepper. Lastly, add chopped parsley. Serve the locro with this dressing.