That’s right – another double recipe. A main course AND a side dish in a single post! What a bargain!
This post (or some other post) was planned for release on Sunday or Monday, but due to a series of schedule snafus and a couple days without AC, I was either unable or completely unwilling to enter the kitchen to cook. The AC going out when the Heat Index is above 105 degrees inspires only one kind of meal planning in my world – the kind that involves eating at a place that DOES have air conditioning. Now that I have cool air flowing through the house again, I can cook in relative comfort (or come inside to said comfort after slaving over a grill), and this was my first meal in said coolness.
I’ll be honest here – until about a week ago, I had absolutely no idea what a tri-tip was – for all I knew, it was a type of frog spear that had three points on it for better gigging results. Only after my father picked one up in a random trip to Costco and I noticed it in his fridge during a family gathering did I even have the faintest idea that it was a cut of meat. Being a proud carnivore, I was curious and since Dad had no real idea how to cook the thing, I offered to grill it up and see what it could do.
So now I knew what a tri-tip was, and had no idea how to cook the darned thing…
Technically a roast cut, the tri-tip is also called the ‘bottom sirloin’, and is cut from the rear leg muscles of the bovine donor and is often simply ground into burger when a cow is butchered. In Europe, South America, and parts of California, however, the tri-tip is usually either slow smoked or grilled and sliced into steaks, and that was what my plan for this one entailed.
Because it is a working muscle, the tri-tip is somewhat lean as well as being rather thick, which makes for an interesting piece of meat for grilling, as lean and thick usually means you end up with something with a texture akin to shoe leather by the time it is done cooking. Luckily, the tri-tip cut usually comes with its own built in source of moisture in the form of a fairly thick cap of fat on the exterior of the meat that will render down during the cooking process and keep the meat tender and juicy. That also means that grilling this cut is going to require some planning in order to avoid flare ups from the dripping fat that would usually char the meat into a lump of charcoal.
The fix for that? Indirect heat. If the meat is cooking in a hot grill, but not directly over coals or a burner, the fat simply drips off and creates a gooey mess in the bottom of your grill instead of catching fire and destroying the meal. If you are using a charcoal grill, this is a simple thing to do – simply rake the coals to one side of the grill and cook the tri-tip on the other. Gas grills are a little trickier, but I found that pre-heating the grill and then turning the burner under the meat to the lowest setting and keeping the other burners on medium-high to keep an temperature of 400-450 degrees inside the grill worked perfectly. (Your grill may be different, but mine still leaks some propane through a burner turned ‘off’, which kept me from simply not using the burner under the meat – propane does not add anything good to the flavor)
As for seasoning, I went the simple route – 3 peppers (black, crushed red, and smoked ancho powder), some garlic powder, and some sea salt. Worked out perfectly.
As for the side dish, Amity will probably make an ugly face and fake vomit noises, but I’m a big fan of beets and needed to do something with some extras from the garden, so I went with a cold beet salad (she’s allergic to them, so she has an excuse). A real simple dish consisting of thin sliced raw golden and red beets tossed in a tangy lemon, tarragon, and roasted garlic vinaigrette, it was a perfect crunchy counterpart for the tender, juicy steak.
And yes, there is bread on that plate, but I did not make it. One of the seasonal fruit stands/markets here in town sells some awesomely kickass pretzel bread and I bought some while I was out looking for ingredients today. Perfect for soaking up the beef juices!