"Never underestimate how much assistance, how much satisfaction, how much comfort, how much soul and transcendence there might be in a well-made taco and a cold bottle of beer."
~Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
Hailing from the Santa Ynez Valley, smack dab in the middle of the Central Coast of California, I was raised on Santa Maria Barbeque. I have chowed down on barbeque across our great nation and I find that all styles are pretty darn tasty and have their own unique merits. As to go so far as to name my favorite, perhaps it all comes down to the homily: the heart is where the home is, because my favorite barbeque begins and ends with tri-tip.
In an upcoming post, we'll bring you Santa Maria barbeque at its finest, complete with pinquito beans, green salad - Rockin' French Salad would do nicely - and garlic bread. For today's post, however, the tri-tip roast is coated with barbeque spice rub, seared and then braised in a slow cooker with enchilada sauce. If I'm throwing a party I will also include chicken or fish tacos on the menu that have been cooked in a tomatillo sauce and kept warm in a slow cooker. I serve easy Mexican-style beans, Mexican rice, guacamole, a variety of salsas on the side, such as mango and salsa fresca, and freshly prepped garnishes that are sure to please everyone.
Shredded Beef Tostados and Tacos
Although trip-tip is a regional specialty that was previously not available outside of the central coast of California, it is now widely available through outlets such as Whole Foods Market and Costco, among other sources.
Homemade enchilada sauce is the preferred choice, but canned works well, too. When I select an off-the-shelf enchilada sauce, I look at the ingredients list on each can and choose the brand with the fewest ingredients. Most enchilada sauces are available in varying degrees of heat from mild to hot. I usually choose mild and let folks spice things up to suit his or her individual tastes by providing a variety of salsas.
If you don't feel like frying your own shells, prepared shells are available at your local market and all that is required is a few minutes in the oven to warm before serving. If you are going the "soft" taco route, choose corn tortillas that are on the thicker side because the enchilada sauce can make a taco soggy pretty quickly. That's why frying is a better option for the shredded beef. Also, frying tostado shells is easier and faster than frying taco shells.
The tostados and tacos would fit nicely into Linda's Fiesta holiday menu, which works well as a buffet to serve a house full of friends and family.
1 large tri-tip, about 1-1/2 to 2 pounds
barbeque spice rub
about 17-fluid ounces of high-heat oil (or more) for frying
1. The night before, liberally coat the tri-tip with barbeque spice rub. Cover and refrigerate.
2. In the morning, heat a 12-inch skillet (or larger) over medium-high heat until hot. Add a little high-heat oil, and sear the tri-tip on both sides. Add the enchilada sauce to the slow cooker. Transfer the seared roast to the slow cooker, spooning some of the sauce on top of the meat. Cook on low for about 8 to 10 hours, or on high for about 5 or 6 hours.
3. Transfer the cooked meat to a plate and using two forks, shred the meat. Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker and stir into the enchilada sauce. Set the slow cooker to low. The meat will keep nicely until ready to serve.
4. Prepare the Mexican-style beans, and keep warm over low heat until ready to serve. If the beans thicken too much, add a little water until you achieve the right consistency.
4. Line a baking sheet with foil and then a layer paper towels and transfer to the oven. Preheat the oven to 250°F. To fry the shells, I use a 10-inch cast iron skillet that is 3-inches deep to shield me from splatters. Use a high-heat oil suitable for frying, such as sunflower, corn, peanut or grapeseed. Do not use olive oil. Fill to a depth of 1 to 2 inches depending upon the number of tortillas you'll be frying. If you fry at the proper heat, not much oil is used and you can use the oil multiple times. Once you are finished frying let the oil cool to room temperature. Transfer the oil to a clean jar, and store in the refrigerator. You can reuse the oil 2 or 3 times when stored properly.
Frying is not sautéing, folks, and we are not giving the tortillas a warming bath, so please heat your oil over medium-high heat until hot, and when you add a corn tortilla it should sizzle pleasantly and bubble profusely as if Mr. Tortilla is enjoying an invigorating respite in a Jacuzzi. Using a sturdy pair of tongs, flip the tortilla every 30 seconds or so until crisp on both sides and not soft in the middle. If making tacos, after an initial fry on both sides, I bend the tortilla in half with the tongs, and then fry on both sides until crisp. Let the excess oil drip back into the skillet, and tranfer to the baking sheet in the oven. Repeat with the remaining corn tortillas.