I am from the east coast and my wife is from a lovely spot in the Central Coast of California. Over the years, we have spent a lot of time in her old home town, which is known for a lot of wonderful food and wine. Chief among these is Santa Maria Style Bar-B-Que and Tri Tip. Tri Tip is the tip of the Sirloin, and somewhat hard to find on the east coast. It usually comes in roast between 2 and 4 pounds, and is a wonderfully flavorful and juicy cut of meat. So over the years we have had to satisfy our tri tip craving on our annual trips back to the other coast.
Slowly, however, I have been working to develop a set of local suppliers for our fix. This has also required me to learn a lot more about how to best cook and prepare the tri tip itself. With the visit of her brother, also a major Tri-Tip junkie, I took the opportunity to try out my hand on this specialized delicacy.
In addition to locating a 2 pound, locally raised, grass fed tri tip from Midland Tree Farms in Virginia, I also located some Santa Maria Pacquinto beans from Rancho Gordo. While decidedly not local (they are based in Napa Valley), they are authentic to the region and the owners of RG are really focused on bringing back heirloom varieties of beans. I was thrilled to find these local delicacies, even if they required some shipping.
The means were cooked with some inions and garlic, and some chopped up pork belly to add some meat and richness to the dish. I pre-soaked the beans and then cooked them in their soaking liquid for about 4 hours on low heat. They still had a little bite left and were not too soft. Added a small amount of salt and the end, along with a little soy sauce and Worchester sauce as well.
The tri tip got a light coating of Santa Maria dry run about 2 hours before being cooked. The rub features garlic salt, salt, pepper and some herbs. The salt helps draw out some moisture and helps ensure a nice crust on the meat.
The fire was hardwood charcoal and some shredded oak chips. I CANNOT STRESS HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS. You need to use oak to make authentic tri-tip or Santa Maria BBQ. I was lucky enough to have the rancher from Midland Tree Farms provide some oak from her ranch. So the meat was going to be smoked from trees surrounding the area where the cows lived. Kind of cool, I thought. I soaked the shreds for 30 minutes in water. I had never used shreds before, and I admit I like them because they don't need to soak for hours. The downside is they cook down very quickly.
After letting the coals die down (about 325 in the grill), I coated the roast with more dry rub and then put the roast on the grill as far from the heat as possible. And I then threw the oak right on top of the fire and closed it up.
About 15 minutes later, I turned the roast, and threw on another handful of the oak. Fifteen minutes later, I moved the roast over the heat for 5 minutes a side and then check the temperature - now a perfect 130 degrees and took it off the heat to rest.
The longest 10 minutes in the world are the ones left waiting for the meat to rest. But once it had relaxed, we carved up this terrific piece of meat. The outside was crusty and brown, it has a nice 1/4" red smoke ring and was incredible juicy. The deep smoky flavor added just the right local note to this dish. The side of beans, which tasted like had been served up at our favorite local joint, were the perfect side.
I served it with some local lettuce (we grew) and tomatoes, and drank a terrific Linne Calodo from Paso Robles.
Everything we ate or drank were authentic central coast, even if some of it came from the East Coast and some had to be imported. Did this make it taste better? Probably not, but it allowed us to enjoy the meal even more for the effort and the theme. Regardless, it was one awesome meal. I am drooling just thinking about it.