We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Tri-Tip: Santa Maria-Style Barbecue and The Firefighters of Greenville ~ Part II

My Traveling Tales by Linda

"These are the better days, baby
Oh better days, it's true
These are better days, baby
Better days are shining through"
~Bruce Springteen

   Two years ago, I visited my son in the mountain town of Greenville, California for the first of what has turned out to be my annual pre-fire season visit in April. Jordan had recently moved there and bought his first house which he spent a considerable amount of time renovating. That April morning upon rising, we loaded Jordan's dogs, Jake and Emma, in the truck and headed to take them for a long run in the sparse snow. I noticed when I hoisted myself into the front seat of Jordan's big ol' truck and he turned on the radio (Jordan is a lover of country music, by the way) that a Craig Morgan song was playing on the station that completely fit what I was experiencing on my first visit to the town. The song goes like this: “A little bit of guitar, a little bit of truck, a little bit of hound dog, and a little bit of luck..." I call this phenomenon, which I have experienced in other situations as well, the "tarot" of music. And so it went on that visit—the perfect song manifested. While last year's visit to Greenville brought an overnight snow of several inches, which allowed for lots of time to cook and for the watching of movies, this year's weekend was accompanied by brilliant sunshine and warm days. This led to Saturday morning being spent golfing with the guys which allowed me to do one of the things that I enjoy the most—take a few hundred photos of the handsome young men while they golfed, and shoot the spectacular scenery of the surrounding snowy peaks at the Mt. Huff Golf Course.

   Then the afternoon was barbecue time. Last year because of the snow, we had a Mexican Fiesta in the house with all of Jordan's buddies. This year with the advent of the amazing weather, it was time take advantage of the mild temps and grill tri-tip. Being from the Santa Ynez Valley, this is our family tradition... one that we never tire of. I am a woman that loves to grill, but when "Grill Master" Steve is around, he takes charge of cooking the meat. Steve has worked as a Hotshot for several years now with the Plumas group. He not only can cook, but Steve is an excellent hunter as well. He joined us halfway through the golfing because he had been up at dawn to go hunt wild turkeys.

Grill Master Steve tending the tri-tip.
   The menu included homemade pinquito beans, garlic bread from sourdough baguettes that I have been making from Juliette's bread recipe that she developed for her Guadalupe Baking Company, and a big green salad which are the usual sides for the Santa Maria style tri-tip barbeque. As I looked around from my seat on the front porch, my eyes took in firefighters sitting on the lawn laughing and talking, and a young mother nursing her baby boy next to me. There was a grandmother and grandfather, dogs playing fetch with children, and even an American flag waving over the proceedings. I couldn't help feeling like I was taking part in a Chevy commercial—the kind that makes you tear up in spite of yourself.

 Our family suffered the devastating loss of Joshua four years ago. It has been a very rough road as anyone who has lost a child knows. On that day, Jordan lost his identical twin and best friend. The healing is slow, and there is no way through the overwhelming grief but to slog on one step at a time—day after day. Through this uncharted territory, we all have managed to pull together, and be kind to one another. Easier said than done. 
   With the advent of this year's outing, I once again with concentrated effort, flung myself into Jordan's tall truck as we headed to the golf course. I unceremoniously straightened myself in my seat while Jordan smirked at my customary lack of grace—nothing new there. When the radio sprang to life with the start of the engine, a Bruce Springsteen song was playing, and his voice rang out, "These are the days, baby, oh better days, it's true, these are the days, baby, better days are shining through."  I smiled to myself at the perfection of the tarot of music for once again offering up the perfect song... for these are indeed better days for all of us, and I intend to give thanks for them and savor every single one.

Santa Maria Style Barbecue Menu

Grilled Tri-Tip
Pinquito Beans 
Baked Potatoes with all the fixings or Potato Salad
Mixed Green Salad with choice of dressings, or this favorite
Garlic Bread
Wine from the Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley or Santa Barbara County
   Strawberries are grown locally in Santa Maria. In season, strawberry shortcake would be an appropriate grand finale to the meal. Be prepared to let your belt out a few notches. For our extended family, our favorite summer dessert is refreshing Lemon Ice Cream.


Tri-Tip: Santa Maria Style Barbecue 

  Tri-Tip is a triangular muscle cut from the bottom sirloin. A tri-tip on average weighs between 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 pounds. The cooked roasts are cut across the grain into thinnish slices: 1/4-inch to 1/3-inch thick. Traditional Santa Maria Style barbecue calls for grilling tri-tip roasts over red oak burned to hot coals in a pit barbecue with an adjustable grate that can be raised and lowered as needed to help prevent flare-ups. Most folks have a charcoal grill that will perform beautifully for grilling tri-tip. If you don't own a pit grill or a charcoal grill, two strikes doesn't mean you are out. A gas grill will also do the job, but the final taste will be lacking in the smokey flavor that is gained by cooking over live fire or charcoal.
    With all traditionally cooked foods there are a few rules that should be followed for best results. Rule number one: do not trim the fat from the tri-tips. Most purveyors of tri-tip have already trimmed the roast for you.
Rule two: use a spice rub, not a marinade and coat the tri-tip liberally. Tradition calls for a rub made from equal parts sea salt, garlic salt and ground black pepper. More often than not, I use this barbeque spice rub, which is spicy from the kick of added chile peppers. The Fuego rub is also a tasty option and not as spicy as the barbeque spice rub. I've used all three rubs on trip-tip with great success. Don't skip the rub. The spices are key to developing the tasty crust that is a hallmark of a properly prepared and cooked tri-tip. Lastly, bring the rubbed tri-tip to room temperature before grilling.

one or more tri-tips (also less commonly known as top-block sirloin); do not trim the fat

Spice Rub:
  • red oak burned to hot coals under a grill that can be raised and lowered
  • charcoal kettle grill fueled with lump charcoal (ignited in a chimney starter) and soaked wood chips for extra flavor: oak, mesquite or hickory
  • gas grill
We like a charcoal chiminea for getting the coals started.
Bank the prepared charcoal to one side to allow for direct and indirect grilling.
1. Rub the meat generously with the spice rub of choice. This can be done up to 24 hours in advance. Keep the tri-tips covered in the refrigerator. About an hour before grilling, bring the tri-tips to room temperature.
2. If using wood chips, such as oak, hickory or mesquite, soak the chips for at least an hour.
3. Prepare your grill of choice. The grill needs to be hot to sear the tri-tip, but after searing you will cook over indirect heat: 

A. In a pit barbecue, build a fire using red oak or other wood of your choice. If you have a pit barbecue, you likely know what you are doing already, so I won't go into a lot of detail. After about an hour you will have very hot coals, with a little flame. 

B. In a charcoal grill, ignite the briquettes in a chimney starter. The charcoal should be ready in about 15 minutes. Pour the coals on one side of the grill. 

C. Pre-heat a gas grill with temperature at high heat.

Searing the meat on both sides over direct heat.

4. To cook the tri-tip: Sear the tri-tip, fat side up for 5 to 10 minutes, then flip to fat-side down and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. Now you need to cook indirectly. Either turn some burners off, or move the tri-tips to the side of the Weber grill opposite of the hot charcoal. Turn every 7 or 8 minutes until done. Total cooking time is about 25 to 30 minutes, depending upon the size of the tri-tips. Medium-rare is 145°F.
5. After removing the tri-tip from the grill, cover it with foil and let rest for a minimum of 10 minutes and up to a maximum of 20 minutes. While the meat is resting, do the final prep for the menu items. When you cut the meat into 1/4" to 1/3" slices, you'll want to be ready to quickly plate the meal, and sit down and enjoy a memorable meal.

Garlic Bread is put under the broiler to lightly brown while the meat is resting.
Authentic Santa Maria Barbecue includes Pinquito Beans.

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