Until one of my most recent visits back home to the Bay Area, it hadn't occurred to me that there are some definite regional favorites in California that are missing from the Midwest. I could have named dozens of dishes native to Milwaukee (Friday fish fry, beer-braised brats, fried cheese curds, frozen custard), but with the exception of sourdough bread, I'd have drawn a blank if you asked me what California is known for. Until a couple weeks ago.
I don't know now what sparked it, but suddenly everyone was talking about tri tip. Guy Fieri (another Northern California native) was making it on his show, I was seeing recipes in magazines, it was being sold alongside the rotisserie chickens at my mom's grocery store ... and I realized it had been years since I'd had it because you just don't find it here in Milwaukee. Just like you don't find 27 varieties of sausage in your California corner store.
I didn't have a chance to pick up a tri tip while I was at home in the Bay, but Bill and I were in for a surprise when we returned to Wisco. Wandering aimlessly around the meat department at Sendik's on New Year's Eve (Me: "Lobster?" Bill: "No." Me: "Lamb chops?" Bill: "Nuh-uh."), I came across a familiar-looking cut of beef. That lean, triangular, 2-pound steak was what I thought I'd never see on our supermarket shelves: tri tip. Bill didn't have a choice on that one. I snatched it up.
As with most delicious cuts of meat, its beauty lies in the fact that it doesn't take much to make it delicious. Just marinate, grill, and enjoy. The sweet, caramelized, crusty ends are going to be the best part, but you'll also enjoy the super tender and juicy center. I made Ina Garten's equally easy sauteed broccolini (that recipe is also below) to go with it, but it really doesn't need more than a green salad and a hunk of bread.
Marinated Tri Tip
1 tri tip roast, about 2-2 1/2 lbs.
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon garlic salt
Combine all ingredients in a large zip-top bag, ensuring roast is completely coated with marinade. Refrigerate, at least 6 hours but up to 24 hours, turning once.
Remove roast from refrigerator prior to preparing grill. When grill is ready (for maximum charring action, we discovered it's best to have a hot side and cool side of the grill, and the hot side must be VERY hot), place tri tip on hot side. Grill meat 6 to 7 minutes per side, move to cool side of grill, and grill another 6 minutes. Remove meat from grill and allow to rest 10 minutes. Slice at a bias against the grain and serve.
1 bunch broccolini
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, finely chipped
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Blanch broccolini in boiling water 2 minutes. Drain and immediately place in bowl of ice water (to stop cooking and help broccolini retain its crunch).
Melt butter in large skillet. Add garlic and lemon zest. Add broccolini and saute about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Squeeze lemon juice over broccolini just before serving.