Have you heard of tri-tip steak? My only previous encounter with this cut of beef was at one of those Brazilian barbecue restaurants. The waiter came around offering “tri-tip”, so unfamiliar was I that I had to ask him to repeat it several times. I thought it might have been his thick south american accent, but no, it was I who was completely in the dark. One taste confirmed that it was indeed delicious, my pick of the meats that night.
You know when you learn a new word then suddenly you seem to be hearing everywhere? I heard it on TV, I read it in the newspaper and I saw it at Costco on one of my visits. I thought about picking it up, but as with a lot of things unfamiliar, I hesitated and thought against it. How do you cook it? What if I can’t do it justice, I would have wasted a lot of money on a big tray of meat.
So I put it at the back of my mind for some time when the other day I was watching the Lifestyle Food Channel and saw Bobby Flay cooking “Santa Maria steak” which is a traditional Californian way to cook tri-tip. I was convinced that I needed to try it once and for all.
Today I went back to Costco and found a lovely big tray of tri-tip steak. I put half away in the freezer and the rest in a bowl where I liberally salted, peppered and smeared with crushed garlic. I cooked it like I would any other steak on the barbecue – over searing high heat until medium rare. I was rewarded with a supremely flavourful beef flavour with an almost buttery mouthfeel. It must have been all that wonderful fat marbling that melted and gave the steak its juiciness. I don’t think I’ve had a juicer steak ever.
It beats me why this steak is not more known. Not only is it a cheap cut, it’s tender, succulent and bursting with beefiness. If you want to try some tri-tip, you might have to specifically ask a good butcher about it. If you have a South American butcher, they will have it for sure. Otherwise I was really pleased with the ones I got from Costco.
To go with it, I just used what I had to hand. I devised a zingy tomato, mint and onion salsa as well as a deep green kale and wombok slaw. I’m so enamoured by the tri-tip cut that I’m seriously considering taking the other half out for tomorrow’s dinner.
Tri-Tip Steak with Tomato Salsa and Kale & Wombok Slaw
800g tri-tip steak strips
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely grated to a paste using a microplane (or crushed)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 punnets cherry tomatoes
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
juice one lime
2 tablespoons finely shredded mint
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kale and Wombok Slaw
1/2 packet baby kale leaves (I got this at woolworths)
1/2 baby wombok
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to season
Season the steak with the salt, pepper and garlic paste. Leave to come to room temperature. Meanwhile turn on your gas BBQ to high heat.
When you’re ready to cook, oil the steaks and place on the grill plate. Depending on thickness of the steaks, cook for around 4-5 minutes per side, until caramelised and crusty on the outside, but still soft when pressed with your finger. Remove and set aside on a plate to rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile make the salsa by halving the cherry tomatoes and combining with the diced red onion, mint, lime juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
To make the slaw, shred the kale and the wombok. Toss together with the finely sliced onion, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
To serve the steak, cut into slices across the grain.