Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Contrarian, Or The Art of Tailgating

Tailgating 101There is something you should know about my boy Whogus: the man is a sports freak. Oh, not your everyday garden variety sports fan. He is a savant. But you'll never seen him glued to the TV in his dingy apartment, or high-fiving total strangers in some cheesy sports bar. Nope, Whogus will be at the epicenter of every major sporting event in the greater Bay Area: The Tailgate Party. He may not know which team is playing, or even what sport he's attending, but he'll know to within a half degree the ambient heat of his four barbeque grills, the precise BTU output of his six-burner portable stove, and the exact temperature - in Celsius, no less - of his beer cooler.
Actually, none of that is true, and he would probably kill me if he ever bothered to read this blog (we're not all that close, really). He thinks people who watch sports instead of playing them are pathetic. He's quite opinionated on the subject. But the man can grill. Instead of rattles and teething rings, Whogus played with spatulas and tongs as a toddler. His destiny was sealed at an early age. When not hobnobbing with his high-society friends or throwing back G&Ts on the lawns of his parents' estate, Whogus will have his "Kiss the Cook" apron on, charcoal chimney at the ready.
During my holiday visit he picked up a tri-tip of beef, some green & red bell peppers and asparagus, and informed me that he would be manning the grill that evening. Not one to be excluded, I volunteered a marinade for the roast, and a warm potato salad to which my father had introduced me over Christmas. Whogus is a wine merchant, so I knew we were in for one of his singularly indulgent late nights.
Marinating tri-tip of beef With lots of advance notice, a good marinade can really flavor a cut of meat. Salt and a good olive oil will help it retain moisture once it hits the grill. Here's what I came up with:
  • ½ each red and green bell peppers, de-seeded and membrane removed, finely minced
  • ¼-cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely pressed
  • dash Worcestershire and soy sauces
  • fresh ground pepper
Combine all ingredients together in a small mixing bowl. Whisk to incorporate the oil and the liquids. Pour over top of the tri-tip, flipping the roast to marinate both sides. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (I had six). Turn the beef occasional to keep the entire cut marinating. I omitted the salt in the marinade, as there is plenty in the added sauces.
When Whogus returned from work that evening he donned his BBQ holster and fired up his Weber 3000, and I prepped the vegetables. In a more perfect world, there would be two ways, and two ways only to eat vegetables: raw, or hot off the grill. Grilling caramelizes some of the sugars found in almost every vegetable, bringing out a sweetness one would never suspect of a pepper or root. The beautiful charring is always eye-catching, and just makes for an agreeable presentation.
Chopped bell peppers and asparagus spearsOne should make larger cuts when prepping vegetables for the grill. They're more manageable on the grates and resist their natural urge to fall into the fire. You can always cut them in smaller pieces once they've finished cooking.
Grilling tri-tip and bell peppersToss prepped vegetables in a light coating of olive oil, and add them to the grill about halfway through cooking time for the beef. Keep and eye on them. You want nice sear marks, not charred lumps of pure carbon.
Warm potato salad prep: chopped red onion, fresh dill and gherkinsI mentioned a warm potato salad my father made for me over Christmas. It was so simple and delicious, I knew it was gonna end up in my repertoire. Dad gave a red onion a medium chop, and 4 or 5 gherkin pickles a rough chop by way of prep work. Some quartered Yukon Gold potatoes were set to the boil. Once the potatoes were fork tender, Dad drained them, added mayonnaise and the chopped ingredients and mashed them! I should have known. Nothing with Pops O'Food is straightforward. I was ready to turn my nose up at them, but couldn't believe how much I enjoyed them. His secret ingredient was pickle juice from the jar. Here's my variation:
  • 6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, quartered, skins left intact
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red onion, medium chopped
  • 4 gherkin pickles, quartered and roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
  • ½-cup yogurt
  • ¼-cup mayonnaise
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
Warm potato salad with boiled egg Set potatoes to boil in plenty of salted water in an un-covered stock pot. Once potatoes are fork tender, drain them and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the yogurt, mayonnaise, salt and pepper and mix gently to incorporate. Add the onion, pickle and dill and mix thoroughly, and again gently. The mixing will break down the quartered potatoes but still leave some lumps for texture. Layer slices of boiled egg over the top and serve.
Back to the Tri-tip:
Sear marks on bell peppers and tri-tip of beefRemove the bell peppers once they've developed nice sear marks and before they begin to wilt. Once your cut of beef reaches an internal temperature of 140° (medium-rare), remove from the grill, cover lightly with aluminum foil, and let rest for 15 minutes.
Slice meat against the grain at a biasSliced tri-tip of beef
Storrs 2005 Santa Cruz Mountains Petite Syrah Slice the tri-tip against the grain at a bias into thin strips. Layer on a dinner plate, top with the bell peppers, the asparagus spears on the side. Spoon a generous mound of potato salad to one side and tuck in. A Storrs 2005 Santa Cruz Mountains Petite Syrah would in no way be objectionable with this meal. Nor would a second bottle for that matter, and then a glass of 20-year old tawny Port with a piece of dark chocolate for dessert. I warned you things would get decadent.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

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