Sunday, May 30, 2021

Santa Maria Style BBQ and The Hitching Post

Memorial Day weekend is this weekend and marks the beginning of summer break, my husband's birthday, and the official kickoff of the barbecue season! Yippee! Why not fire up the grill and throw a "Santa Maria style barbecue!" Santa Maria style barbecue, named for the town along the central coast of California, is a regional tradition dating back to the mid-1800's. It wasn't until the 1950's, when Tri-Tip became all the rage and a signature cut of this style of barbecue. (For more on Tri-Tip, see Introducing, The One And Only, Tri-Tip!) According to the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, the official Santa Maria style barbecue menu consists of barbecued Tri-Tip, seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and garlic salt, and cooked over red oak, pinquito beans (indigenous to the area), fresh salsa, grilled French bread dipped in butter, macaroni and cheese, tossed green salad, and a strawberry dessert, like my Long-on-Strawberry Shortcake. In addition, they recommend a local Pinot Noir or Syrah to round out the menu. Fantastic!

This recipe, from Frank Ostini of the iconic The Hitching Post and The Hitching Post II restaurants, family owned since 1952, takes Tri-Tip to another level! The secret is their "magic dust" seasoning which adds a few extra ingredients to the traditional dry rub. The Tri-Tip is then basted with a garlic-infused vegetable oil and red wine vinegar mixture. The result is a beautiful beefy masterpiece! Don't forget to check back for the perfect zesty Pinto Bean Salad, a variation of the classic pinquito beans that MUST accompany Santa Maria style barbecue!

"Santa Maria Style BBQ" Oakwood Grilled Tri-Tip

Serves 4, but can easily be doubled for a crowd!


For the Tri-Tip
1, 3 lb Tri-Tip roast
Handful of red oak chips, for the grill

For the magic dust dry rub
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon Kosher salt

For the basting mixture
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup garlic-infused vegetable oil (heat oil in a small pot with a few crushed garlic cloves until the garlic just turns golden, remove from heat and allow to cool)

Soak the wood chips in enough cool water to cover for at least an hour before grilling.

Coat both sides of the Tri-Tip with half the dry rub, pressing to adhere. Let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Meanwhile prepare a charcoal grill to medium hot, placing the hot coals to one side, leaving the other side without coals for indirect cooking. When the coals have all acquired a nice ash coating (will look light gray), remove the wood chips from their soaking water, and throw over the coals. Next, add the Tri-Tip, fat side down and sear for about 5 minutes, uncovered, until charred. Turn the Tri-Tip over, fat side up and sear for another 5 minutes, uncovered, until charred.

Next, place the Tri-Tip to the indirect side of the grill (without coals), baste with some of the basting mixture and sprinkle with some of the remaining dry rub. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes or so, flip the Tri-Tip and baste again and sprinkle with some more dry rub. (You want to baste and sprinkle with the dry rub each time you flip the Tri-Tip, about 4 times.) Continue to cover and cook until an internal temperature of 125-130, about 30 minutes. (A thermometer, designed for grilling  makes this a lot easier! Check out Gadgets for my top pick!) Remove the Tri-Tip to a cutting board and let rest at least 10 minutes before cutting into 1/2" slices against the grain.

Recipe adapted from Frank Ostini via Bobby Flay. Thanks Frank!

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Mexico's Crazy Corn!

When I was a kid, I remember when my Mom and Dad returned from a vacation in Veracruz, Mexico. My Mom told us that they put mayonnaise on corn on the cob, and we thought that sounded extremely gross! "Elote Asado" (Mexican Grilled Corn) is perhaps the most popular street food in Mexico. Sweet ears of corn are grilled until tender, slathered with mayonnaise, Mexican crema, or a mixture of both, then rolled in cotija cheese, dusted with chili powder, and served with a wedge of lime. I know it sounds crazy, but it is quite delicious!

I recommend starting with the freshest, sweetest corn you can find. I also recommend seeking out authentic Mexican crema, as opposed to using sour cream. In addition, I have to admit that I don't care for the squeeze of lime. I know...dumb gringo! (FYI: If you serve this to anyone with facial hair, have plenty of napkins available! It's pretty funny to watch!) Anyway, this is a fun and authentic recipe to celebrate Cinco de Mayo! Try it and let me know what you think! Happy Cinco!

Elote Asado (Mexican Grilled Corn with Crema, Cheese, and Chili)

Serves 4

4 ears of corn
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup Mexican crema
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup grated cotija cheese
Chili powder
4 lime wedges, for garnish

Pull the husks down the corn, but leave some attached to make a handle. (I like to tear a husk or two to tie the husks together.) Grill the corn on a hot grill, turning occasionally until tender and slightly charred, approximately 8-10 minutes. Mix the mayonnaise, crema, and cilantro together in a small bowl. Spread the cotija cheese on a plate to allow easy rolling. When the corn is done, slather it liberally with the mayo/crema/cilantro mixture. Roll it in the cotija cheese. Sprinkle with chili powder, to taste. Serve with lime wedges.