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Sunday, July 18, 2004

IMBB#6 - Girl at the Grill

Ever since I visited San Luis Obispo earlier this year, I've had a hankering for Central Coast-style barbequed tri-tip; I picked up a pre-marinated "Santa Maria Style" piece of meat at Trader Joe's one day, consumed it with great cries of glee, and was distressed to find only the un-marinated meat the next time I was in.
But I got it anyway, and got to work.  I had some vinaigrette dressing in the fridge, a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck (for those of you not familar with the wonder that is Trader Joe's, this is wine from the Charles Shaw Winery that sells at the whopping sum of $2 US in California and is quite passable), and some Susie Q seasoning I got in SLO:

Susie Q

Susie Q is the house brand of the excellent Far Western Tavern in Guadalupe near Santa Maria, a place well worth a visit if you wish to eat steak that cuts "like butter".

The basic procedure was very simple:

- Get out a ceramic casserole with a lid

- Salt top and bottom with Susie Q (you could mix salt, pepper, and herbs if you didn't have Susie in your cupboard and don't wish to order it)

- Pour vinaigrette (recipe below) in to cover top and bottom

- Pour a good glug of inexpensive red wine in to cover top and bottom

- Season again

Then I covered the dish and let it marinate in the fridge overnight and turned it in the morning. I estimate I used about half a cup each of wine and dressing.

I fired up the barbeque in the evening, using a combination of regular briquettes and mesquite. Trader Joe's directions with the meat said to grill it fat side up for 50 minutes, but I cooked it fat side down (after, you guessed it, another shake of Susie Q) for 10 on a covered Weber and then turned it and cooked for 30 more. I let it stand for a good thirty minutes after it came off the grill. It was plenty done and mighty tasty:


The absolutely traditional side with Central Coast barbeque is pinquito beans. The beef-and-beans thing goes back to the Californio days before the land was part of the United States. Pinquitos are, as you may have gathered, small and pink. They hold up quite well to the cooking process and retain their shape. I usually get them canned, as S&W does a good brand, cooked with spices, which is available in my local markets.

Other sides you will often see with tri-tip are salsa (pico de gallo variety), potato salad of the classic American russets-mayonnaise-and-green onions variety, green salad (we are Californians and we like our veggies), and/or garlic bread. If you drive down the main drag of any Central Coast town (the closer to the central Santa Maria-SLO axis, the better) on a Saturday afternoon, the chances are good some civic group has set up their Q rig in a parking lot as a fund-raiser. Follow your nose.

The central coast is wine country so even the diviest of the BEEF restaurants (Jocko's in Nipomo) offers a full-bodied red as a beverage option. The less divey places, and the supermarkets that the high school band has set up their rig in the corner of, have a nice selection of local vintages. It's good with microbrew or iced tea (which in California is not very sweet) or lemonade as well. The only thing bad about it is that tri-tip, like flank steak and skirt steak before it, has been popularized so that a cut of meat that was previously cheap and only good if you did something about it is now costlier and you still have to do something about it.

The vinaigrette I use is from my trusty summer standby and RFC "signature dish" Bread Salad, which would make a very tasty if not exactly canonical side with the tri-tip (indeed, I am working on some right now and highly recommend it as a Summer Party Dish):

Whisk together:

1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
1 - 2 cloves smooshed or finely diced garlic
Juice of one lemon

and then whisk in 2/3 cup good olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

(For the rest of the bread salad recipe, follow the link above. You won't regret it if you aren't low-carbing.)

Extra Bonus Recipe - Baa Baa Barbeque

My next grilling adventure is to reproduce a dish my pal Jamie from rec.food.cooking calls "Lamb on a Stick" for a party. Even people who think they don't like lamb (probably because they got served mutton as a young'un) will probably think this is very tasty. The trick with lamb dishes is to get a nice leg of lamb (boneless if they sell it that way) or some lamb sirloin (Jamie's recommendation, available at Costco) and then TRIM IT very well. (My dad has a butterflied marinated leg of lamb recipe that I was unfortunately not organized enough to get from him, but will include in this entry when I do. It also "converts" non-lamb-eaters.)

It's a good party dish because all the prep work is done in advance (so you can socialize with your guests) and the skewers take only about 10 minutes to cook. Anyway, eating kebabs is fun. You might want one of those trays for your barbeque for this one. And if you, like I, have an overactive rosemary bush, it's perfect!

Skewered Lamb with Coriander Yogurt, aka Lamb on a Stick
From a book called: Mediterranean: food of the sun by Jacqueline Clark and Joanna Farrow.

The authors note that lean beef or pork work equally well.

900g/2lb lean boneless lamb
1 large onion, grated
3 bay leaves
5 thyme or rosemary sprigs
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
25 ml/1/2 tsp caster sugar (regular old US sugar - clb)
75 ml/3 fl oz/ 1/3 cup olive oil
salt and ground black pepper
sprigs of rosemary, to garnish
grilled lemon wedges, to serve

Coriander Yogurt

150 ml/1/4 pint (2/3 cup) thick natural yogurt
15 ml/1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
15ml/1 tsp chopped fresh coriander (cilantro in the US - clb)
10ml/2 tsp grated onion

1. To make the coriander yogurt, mix together the yogurt, mint, coriander and grated onion and transfer to a small serving dish.

2. To make the kebabs, cut the lamb into small chunks (1" or under) and put in a bowl or non-metal casserole dish. Mix together the grated onion, herbs, lemon rind and juice, sugar and oil, then add the salt and pepper and pour over the lamb. Leave to marinate in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

3. Drain the meat and thread on to skewers. Cut lemons up, brush with oil, and thread on a skewer.

4. Arrange on a grill rack and cook under a preheated grill for about 10 minutes until browned, turning occasionally. (Or cook over charcoal/gas fire until they look done - clb) Transfer to a plate and garnish with rosemary or other herbs. Serve with the grilled lemon wedges and the coriander yogurt.

This is great! I just vacationed on the Central Coast. The Best BBQ I've ever tasted! Really enjoyed the Hitching Post in Casmalia. Hard restaurant to find, but worth it. The style of BBQ on the Coast is something I've never experienced. The restaurant said you could order their food online now bbq 2 you or something...The wine was great too.
This is great! I just vacationed on the Central Coast. The Best BBQ I've ever tasted
The wine was great too.
I love vinaigrettes but my husband doesn't like it so I decided to create my own vinaigrette at work and in this way he doesn't get angry with my because he said that it is unhealthy but I love them.
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