Provoleta- grilled provolone cheese- from Uruguay (and Argentina) is a quick 3-minute appetizer from refrigerator to serving. Is there any hot appetizer quicker than this? This provoleta recipe could not be easier. So if you are looking to cook recipes from Uruguay, traditional food like this is a great way to start.
Grilled cheese is adored throughout the world. Provoleta -grilled provolone cheese- is another classic, melted cheese recipe but with a Uruguayan touch, you should add to your repertoire. This recipe is inspired by our provoleta- grilled provolone cheese- experience at the Mercado del Puerto, a meat lover’s paradise and contained within the La Cuidad Vieja (the Old City) of Montevideo.
If this isn’t the best place to eat meat anywhere in the world, then I can’t wait to find the venue better than this one. It is a large pavilion just full of vendors grilling meat of all kinds. The aroma of cooking meat is divine. Full of happy people dining on great steaks and washing them down with tannat, maybe the best kept, red-wine secret in the world. We loved the tannat, the steaks and the provoleta- grilled provolone cheese- at the Mercado del Puerto.
Read on to find out more about provoleta, the Mercado del Puerto and one of our favorite dining experiences in Uruguay.
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Uruguay Traditional Food at Mercado del Puerto – Not for Vegetarians
Uruguay has long been underrated. Winner of 2 of the first 4 Football (soccer) World Cups. A tiny nation of 3 million people (now) little Uruguay was able to defeat the might of Brazil in front of 200,000 Brazilians (yes that attendance figure is correct) to claim their second World Cup in 1950. They are a lovely people and still feel apologetic for beating Brazil in that match. Such a humble people!
Well it is like that around tourism, food and wine in Uruguay as well. Uruguayans are quite used to playing second fiddle to tourism giants Argentina and Brazil. But I am here to tell you that from a security point of view Uruguay was most pleasant. Unlike their neighbors, we at no stage felt our personal safety was at risk. And the steaks, red wine and cost of travel were far superior in Uruguay.
It is nice to visit a country where people are just happy you have come to visit. If you want a typical Uruguayan experience, then visit El Palenque at the Mercado del Puerto, take a seat at the bar. It is a very social affair, with everyone talking to each other. Both times we ate here we met everyone else seated at the bar. And you can watch the meat being grilled on the open fire (don’t sit too close it is hot!). Justpick up the menu and select some of the delicious food. Whenever we asked for a recommendation of a place to eat at Mercado del Puerto, El Palenque was the answer!
El Palenque at Mercado del Puerto
The sounds, the aromas of literally hundreds of pieces of magnificent meats being cooked at the same time throughout the Mercado is rather mouth-watering. The whole pavilion is just full of vendors grilling a great selection of meats (beef, lamb and to a lesser extent chicken and pork are the popular choices). Overall, it is just a great vibe and it won’t set you back a fortune.
And as for what you should select at El Palenque at the Mercado del Puerto. Try these:
- Jamón Ibérico (ham to die for)
- Provolone Palenque (see our take on this classic provoleta- grilled provolone cheese- recipe below)
- Entrecote or Lomo (great steaks)
- Any tannat red wine (we will explore the joys of tannat in a future post)
You might notice there is no salad or vegetable here. Well Uruguayans do actually eat vegetables. In the Mercado del Puerto you will find any vegetable that can be cooked on the grill! Think potatoes in their jackets, squash (pumpkin) bell peppers (capsicums) and onions. You can also find salad but to be honest that is not what you come to the Mercado del Puerto for!
And so, it was the quest for finding an appetizer prior to our steaks that we came across provoleta-grilled provolone cheese and discovered this little gem. Here at the market they cooked the provolone on the grill using the metal pan you can see on this video. Watch how it is served by the master!
Read on to find out how to make this simple dish at home.
Provoleta- Grilled Provolone Cheese- Simple and Delicious
There is nothing difficult about making this traditional food of Uruguay. All you need is some round provolone cheese cut about a half inch (1.25 cm) thick and some dried, Italian-style herbs. I used a mix with rosemary, basil, marjoram, parsley, onion, black pepper, red bell pepper and oregano. You can use whatever you have.
Just sprinkle the herb mix over the top of the cheese and place under a pre-heated broiler (grill). Could there be anything easier than that?
While it is cooking, pour yourself a tannat, red wine. It is freely available in better wine stores throughout the US, Australia and the UK, especially those with good Chilean and Argentinian selections.
Serve the provoleta- grilled provolone cheese- and then sit back and enjoy sipping your tannat and imagine yourself sitting at the bar of the El Palenque at the Mercado del Puerto and taking it all in.
For me it was my favorite experience of Uruguay. Simple but not to be underrated. That sums up Uruguay for me. Uruguay flies under the radar and It is why you should visit and see for yourself.
Enjoy the Provoleta- grilled provolone cheese!