Friday, May 16, 2008

Mother's Day

Last week my family and I enjoyed a Southern California vacation. Unfortunately there were not many notable meals involved. We had a good time with my grandparents at brunch, and my sister's rooftop grill, but I didn't do the cooking. Apart from that we ate at Disneyland and a variety of chain restaurants. I didn't bother snapping any photos of my Tomorrow Land slice of Pizza or my Coco's soggy salad.

But the day after we arrived back in the PNW we packed up the horde and headed over to my parents for a bbq. I prepared a California Santa Maria style BBQ. A favorite of my family since growing up in San Luis Obispo. I did lift some of recipes from Steve Raichlen's BBQ USA cookbook, worth picking up if you lika da grilled food as I do. The meal hinged on a couple citrus-marinaded, then rubbed tritips. But also crucial are the pinquito beans! Only grown in Santa Maria and surrounding area, they are core to Santa Maria Style BBQ. My parents always like to tell the story of a church dinner they were involved with years ago. They borrowed two commercial stew pots and made 20 lbs of beans (20 lbs dry!). It was too much beans. I only made about 1/5c of dry beans, it was just enough.

I also threw together some salsa fresca for an hors d'oevre and as a topping for the tritips. There were some grilled asparagus (very similar to the pan seared ones in the prior post, just a different, and more delicious heat medium) and a heavily garlic buttered pugiliese loaf.

Beef Tri Tip

This is an easy cut. And delicious. But it's biggest allure is it's price point, it's also cheap. There is a lot of connective tissue here, it looks a little like a strip steak, so you just need to be sure to slice it very thin, across the grain. You'll be left with some of the most intensly flavored, and not overly tough beef steak you'll ever taste. I threw together a quick marinade of the juice of two oranges, one lime, a little soy sauce, and a few crushed cloves of garlic. I had just purchased the beef that same morning, so I didn't marinate for more than a few hours, but that's okay, I wasn't looking for an intense marinade flavor, just a little citrus hint in the background. Once we started the coals I dried the meat and gave it a good rub of salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried rosemary. Once the coals were ready it was tossed on the hot grill for around 10 minutes a side for medium doneness. As I said, be sure to slice thin across the grain and then top it with a little fresh salsa.

Salsa Fresca

Chopping. chopping. chopping. I like it. Relaxing to me.

2lbs ripe tomatoes, chopped. Cut out the stem then slice each one across the equator so you can squeeze out the seeds. Once chopped put your tomatoes in colander in the sink and lightly salt. This will allow them to shed some excess moisture so you don't wind up with salsa soup.
One small yellow onion, or half a large one, chopped. Don't add too much onion to your fresh salsa, it's too overpowering unless you cook it. but then it wouldn't be fresca, would it?
Three Anaheim chilies, chopped, one of them roasted.
Three Pasilla chilies, chopped, two of them roasted. When you are roasting your chilies just toss them right onto your hot bbq coals and turn them only once completely blackened and blistered. Once the whole thing is charry, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Then rinse the charred skin off under water. Your're left with the delicious and sweetly roasted chili flavor. I realize this isn't exactly 'fresca' but that's what sets this recipe off!
A fistful of cilantro, chopped.
Some folks in Cali will add some celery, feel free, but I think it has enough bite without it.
Toss everything together and squeeze the juice of a lime over it. Salt, pepper and you are ready to dip a chip in already.

The Beans

I follow Raichlen's recipe pretty closely here. And unless you live on the central coast you'll have to go to the interweb for the beans. Pinto beans will do though, if you must. Take 1.5 cups and make sure there's no pebbles in the mix. soak in water overnight. Drain the water and refill the pot to a level at least a few inches above the beans. You can add a little onion or a ham hock if you like. I like. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 1.5 hours. You may need to skim off a little foam after the first 20 mins or so. Drain the beans, but save a little of the beanjuice.
Meanwhile, in a little saucepan, stir together 3/4 of a can of tomoato paste (smear the remaining 1/4under your eyes as warpaint), a spoonful of brown sugar, a squirt of prepared mustard, some toasted and ground cumin, and some oregano. Oh! and you must add some chili sauce. They say that in Cali they prefer Las Palmas. Raichlen says it. The internet says it. My dad seemed to recall it a little. But I can't find Las Palmas around here. I really like PicoPica though, and you can find it anywheres. Add about two tablespoons I think. I just glub it in.

lets see, what else?

Oh, the Garlic Bread

I don't really have a recipe or anything. I bought a nice pugiliese loaf, which I really like, it's got a great crust but is really doughy and moist inside with a great mild sour flavor. I melted a stick o butter in the nuker for a few seconds-just enough to make it pliable. Then I pressed 3 or 4 cloves of garlic (you must pick up a Zyliss, accept no subs) and a few green tops of some spring onions I had in the fridge. slice your loaf in half and smear that stuff all over the place. Then grill it until it's toasted, you can do this while the beef is resting.

You'll need to pair this with a nice bottle of Central Coast, fruit-forward, Cabernet. Maybe two bottles.

Cheers to Wife, my mom, and all the mothers out there!

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