Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Memorial Day Surf n' Turf

Rather than going to the meat section of my local grocer with a particular plan in mind about what I want to cook, I tend to let what is available in the meat section decide what is on the menu, based on what looks good and what fits the budget. I ventured to my local Costco and after perusing the poultry and pawing the pork spareribs and baby backs, I bought some nice tri-tip, AKA "Santa Maria Steak" (after it was made popular for BBQ in Santa Maria, California) for Memorial Day. I have never barbecued this particular cut of beef, but had heard good things.

I immediately let Google do the walking as I educated myself about the origin of tri-tip (geographically to the cow, that is) and the "best" cooking methods out there. Of which there are many, of course. I generally start by learning about all sorts of different methods of preparation, from heat source to sauce, then distill that into a version that suits my taste (more below).

I also had some salmon in the fridge that needed cooking, so I decided to prepare both along with some Jasmine rice and steamed green beans. Here is the recipe for the tri-tip; I apologize for any vagueness as I made up the marinade as I went along. In the future, I will also try to post pictures as I go along for your visual enjoyment:

2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne (mild for the kiddies, add as much as you can handle)
1 tsp cracked pepper
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp olive oil

The Meat
4 lbs tri-tip

Combine all of the ingredients for the marinade and whisk. Ideally, the end result will be a paste consistency. If it is dry, just add olive oil a little at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

Use a basting brush to coat the tri-tip with the marinade and refrigerate for at a least a couple hours or overnight. I found that the proportion listed above was just enough to coat my 4 pounds of tri-tip. You can store the meat in ziplock baggies, or plastic ware. I prefer Glad Press-n-Seal as it provides a good airtight seal, especially good for overnight.

Fire up your grill for indirect cooking:

1. If you are a "gasser", get one side going on high heat and leave the other burner off.

2. Charcoal users can push their lit coal to one side, or use baskets if you have them.

Optionally, a foil pan filled with water can also be placed directly over the heat to add moisture to the occasion, but I generally reserve that method for longer cooks than this one. Add another pan under where the meat will be placed to catch any drippings. This will save some cleanup and some like to use drippings to make sauce.

I recommend taking your marinating meat our of the fridge at least an hour before your grill is ready so it isn't cold when it hits the heat. This way, your heat doesn't have to defrost the meat before it begins to cook it.

Once your heat is ready, you may want to consider another layer of flavor. So far we have the meat and the marinade, but we can do more!

1. For propane grills, seal soaked wood chips in heavy duty foil and poke holes in the foil to create a "flavor pouch". This pouch will be placed on your hot side, which will make some nice wood smoke for added flavor.

2. Charcoal users can drop a handful of soaked (or dry, "Brazilian Style, my preferred method) wood chips directly on the coals to make smoke.

Now, time to introduce the meat to the heat!

Place the tri-tip over the drip pan, away from the flame and close the lid (no peeking). After about 20 to 30 minutes, I check to see that all is well, but this really isn't necessary; I am overly anxious as I have a new grill set up. Keep in mind, every time you crack the lid, you let heat out and add about 5 minutes to your cooking time, so patience is definitely a virtue here.

I slow-cooked my tri-tip for 35-40 minutes and finished it over the heat for about 5 minutes each side to get some nice grill marks. The result was a perfectly medium-rare tri-tip that was juicy and delicious with a little touch of smoke flavor. Adjust the cooking time to your liking but remember tri-tip is fairly lean.

Enjoy! Serves 4-6

I'll post my salmon recipe at a later time.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hot Grillin' Mama

There is really nothing better than a woman who knows her way around a grill.

It gives me great pleasure and pride to announce that "Mrs. Bullfrog" has taken the plunge and has learned how to do just that! I have been grilling and smoking food for her to enjoy for some time, and she has mentioned before that she wouldn't mind trying it for herself some time.

A couple weeks ago she asked me to show her how to get the charcoal started so she could use the Weber to cook some meat. We had a heat wave come through our neck of the woods and she didn't want to turn the stove on. So I showed her the ropes, and since then I have been able to enjoy delicious grilled goodness without even getting all dirty and smokey myself! And we are talking the more difficult way; no lighter fluid here, we use a charcoal chimney to get the coals going. She even knows how to arrange the coals so she has a few different temperature zones to work with (I'm tearing up...). Beautiful!

Last night she made a grilled scallop and shrimp salad with walnuts and feta cheese; it was awesome!

So, this summer just got better.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Politics, the Bible and Barbecue

This pretty much sums up my interests, although not necessarily in that order...

It has been a very interesting political season, to say the least, and my family and I have recently moved to a different church that has an excellent pastoral staff that teaches the Word of God very well, so we have really been getting into the Bible deeply.

But I would like to use today's post to talk about my other passion, one that tends to get sparked at such a time as this: the weather is getting warmer, the sky is clear and the sun is out. On top of that it is just too hot to turn on the oven at dinner time. So, when you get hungry, the only logical thing to do is to fire up the grill or smoker!

My foray into grilling goes way back. Grilling gives me the opportunity to pursue many loves; cooking, playing with fire, and of course there is the eating! More recently, I discovered smoking and it got into my blood right away. Obviously there is the playing with fire and eating which make it similar to grilling, but what really makes it great is the science involved. Smoking food involves imparting several layers of flavor to meat using a variety of methods lending itself too lots of experimentation and creativity.

There are many takes on what makes good barbecue, but the best thing about it is, it is fun to prepare and almost always tastes good.

So, no matter where you fall in the spectrum of outside cooking, stop by often and find my take on grilling and barbecue. I plan to use this blog as a barbecue journal of sorts; keeping track of methods and the quality of food they produce. I may even help you avoid a no-no or two by getting there before you. We can share recipes, or a good story about how you burned off your eyebrows using too much lighter fluid.