Chef Lou Lambert is an undeniable barbecue master and this weekend he will show off his skills as he roasts a 1,200-pound steer at the 3rd Annual Vaca y Vino event. The Argentinean style feast at the beautiful Bridges Ranch in Wimberley revives the tradition of cooking a whole steer over a live fire — a tricky operation for even the best pit master.
Unlike barbecuing smaller animals, you can’t run out to your local hardware store and buy a grill box to cook a whole steer. Lambert and crew constructed a massive pit with an elaborate pulley system and large grate on which they can splay the meat to cook it evenly. Even with a pulley system to bear the weight, turning the grate is a delicate process that requires several people.
The steer takes 24 hours to cook and requires a team of chefs — and probably a fair amount of beer — to tend the fire and the beef. "The trick is keeping the heat even," says Will Bridges of Lambert's, one of the event organizers. "Lou [Lambert] has this magical way that he builds the flame and then he keeps fire burning in barrels to the side. While the steer is cooking he sprinkles a little heat here, and a little there, like a paintbrush."
The result is a medium rare side of beef, perfectly cooked in the South American tradition espoused by Chef Francis Mallman in his book Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, a favorite of Bridges' father. "It is something of a spectacle and the scale is hard to deal with, so this is something you do for pure celebration," says Bridges. "You are honoring the cow and celebrating the land and the animal."
Guests attending the dinner will enjoy music from The Moonhangers and a sampling of Argentinean wines with their healthy helpings of beef. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, a national organization that supports independent family farmers and protects a healthy and productive food supply for American consumers.
Vaca y Vino takes place on Sunday, April 6, from 1 - 6 pm at Bridges Ranch at Wimberley. Tickets are $100, $125 with shuttle service.