Originally I was going to do this as 2 posts but I’m rolling it all into one. What we’re doing today is Chimichurri and Santa Maria style Tri-Tip.
If you’re not familiar with Chimichurri, it’s arguably the Argentinean national dish. Chimichurri is an incredible flavorful sauce and marinade. You can use it on beef, pork, chicken but it’s most often associated with beef. You might have to first get past the idea of a green sauce on top of your beef, but once you taste it, you won’t have a problem dipping into it or slathering it on your food. (It might look a bit like a sinus infection but it tastes incredible!) We like it so much we use it for a chip dip.
I first learned about Chimichurri from a guy I used to sell cars with right next to the Mexican border in Chula Vista, CA. Jorge (J.C.) Carranza is Argentinean and a terrific car sales guy and we’d talk about our mutual love of good food during the frequent down time. Did I say “talk”? J.C. is like me and loves to debate and argue so some of our conversations would get pretty spirited.
Now, let’s talk tri-tip for a bit. This is a terrific cut of meat. It’s from the bottom sirloin and is triangular in shape. It’s flavorful and cooked properly is tender and juicy. Santa Maria style tri-tip is usually cooked coated in a seasoning blend of black pepper, garlic and coarse salt and is a fantastic way to prepare the meat. This time, I used Chimichurri as a marinade as well as a sauce. “True” Santa Maria Tri-tip is served with a salsa but who says the salsa has to be red! And, Santa Maria style is also a cooking technique where the meat generally is seared over a red oak fire then cooked indirectly by raising the grill surface until the desired “doneness” is achieved.
OK, so my mouth is now watering with the memory of this tasty dinner I made recently. So, now it’s time to share these 2 simple recipes with you.
4-6 garlic cloves peeled and minced (I used jarred Gilroy garlic)
1-2 jalapenos seeded
1 “bunch” parsley
1 “bunch” cilantro
¼ cup (appx) chopped onion
2 tbsp lime juice (fresh squeezed is best—add some of the zest too)
¼ cup (appx.) Red wine vinegar
1 cup oil (EVOO or Canola)
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat (Tabasco, cayenne, chipotle, habenero) to taste (optional)
Get out your food processer. Strip the leaves from the cilantro and parsley (you don’t have to be perfect just make sure that the larger stems at the bottom are pulled free or chopped off) and put into the processer. Add about a tablespoon of oil to start and run the processer to chop up the leaves. Add more oil as needed then add the jalapenos, onion, garlic, salt & pepper and process some more. Taste, taste, taste! If you want some more heat, add some Tabasco, cayenne, etc. to taste. This will make a couple of cups or so. You want your Chimichurri to be able to be poured—not too thick but not runny either—just a nice viscous sauce.
Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip
1 lb Tri-tip (they’re usually 2 ½ to 3 lbs)
Put the Tri-tip in a large plastic freezer bag with about 1 cup or so of the Chimichurri. Shake & squeeze until the Tri-tip is well coated. Put the bag of Tri-tip in the refrigerator on a plate for about 4-6 hours (or even overnight) to marinade.
Set up your grill with a 2-zone fire (hotter on one side than the other). You can do this on a multiple burner gas grill by having one side on high and the other either on low or off depending on the heat your grill throws off. If you’re using charcoal put all the coals on one side. Take the Tri-tip out of the bag and scrape off some most of the marinade with your finger (don’t worry, you can wash your hand—you have to get “intimate” with your food as you cook).
When done, remove from the grill and let rest for at least 5 minutes and preferably 10. Then slice, put on a platter or plate and drizzle Chimichurri over it—and have some available “on the side” for dipping.
(At the request of Mrs. Cheap Bastid, here's what I would do if I didn't have a grill and were going to do it in the oven--put the marinaded, "scraped" roast in a skillet on the stove top heated to medium high. Sear on each side for about 2 minutes until you get a bit of a crust. Then transfer to a roasting pan (preferrably on a rack & I use foil disposable pans) and put into the oven at 350 degrees. Check at 45 minutes and then every 15 minutes after until you're half a notch from your desired doneness. Remove and let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing).
Have a side of “frijoles” and a salad and some French bread along with it and you’ve got some fantastic eating “Santa Maria style”.
Cheap Bastid Test: You have to look for specials on your meat! The last Tri-tips I bought were on special for $1.99/lb and I got the 2 biggest ones they had. The fixings for Chimichurri are cheap. A bunch of cilantro or parsley is about $.50 each and the other ingredients should be on hand. Total for the whole thing was about $5 for the meat and $1.50 for the Chimichurri sauce. It’s fantastic eating and will feed 4 easily. Assuming 4 for dinner, the cost of this is about $1.75 per person. And we had left-overs for sandwiches too!
That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good, Eat Cheap, Be Grateful!