Provoleta is basically just browned and melted cheese. Despite its simplicity, however, this Argentine dish can be a little tricky to make in its authentic form. Traditionally, a thick slice of provoleta—the name of the cheese as well as the dish—is placed on a hot grill over a charcoal fire until crisped and browned with a gooey just-melted center. Hot off the fire, it’s often served with grilled bread and chimichurri.
Yet for the novice provoletero, achieving the right balance of textures and flavors in the cheese can mean a bit of trial and error. The first problem is getting the right cheese. Recipes for provoleta generally call for provolone without mentioning that provoleta and provolone are not the same product. Provoleta is, in fact, the trademark name of a cheese invented around 1940 specifically for grilling and serving as an appetizer in advance of the chargrilled meats for which Argentina is famous. It’s like provolone, but not exactly the same.
Since the real deal can’t be found in most grocery stores outside of South America, maybe it’s moot, but the point is that factors like the cheese’s age, protein, and fat content can determine whether your slice will drip disastrously into the coals or brown beautifully in the smoky heat. Whether the provolone from your local grocer will perform as desired is something you must discover for yourself.
The next hurdle, easier to clear by far, is getting thick slices. That means a trip to the deli counter, then possibly some further effort convincing the person behind it that you really do want your cheese sliced that thickly.
Finally, there’s dialing in the grill. The intensity of the fire, the distance to the grate, the timing—all of these will affect the final product. You’ve got to tackle the problem yourself. Maybe get a few extra slices just in case.
- 12 ounces provolone, cut into a single 1-inch slice
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 loaf rustic bread, sliced
- Olive oil for drizzling
Gather the ingredients.
Put the cheese out on your counter to dry in the open air for a few hours.
In the meantime, make the chimichurri. Add garlic, parsley, oregano, oil, vinegar, salt and red pepper to a food processor. Pulse until the herbs and garlic reach a coarse to medium fine consistency. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
When at least one side of the cheese has a bit of a dried skin, fire up the charcoal grill. Have a small cast iron pan handy in case the cheese gets too melty. Grill the cheese on the dry side until crisp and lightly browned. Flip the cheese over into the cast iron pan. Put the pan on the grill and melt the cheese to your desired level. Remove from heat.
Drizzle your bread with oil and quickly grill it on both sides. Remove and serve with the provoleta and chimichurri.