Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Best Meal You've (Probably) Never Eaten

The Central Coast of CA- my "real" home- is beautiful. The climate is close to perfect, amazing wines are everywhere, the beach is right at your doorstep, and it's a mere 4-ish hour drive to either LA or San Francisco.
It. Is. Perfect.

I grew up eating something called "Santa Maria Style BBQ." It's a staple, and I had no idea that it really doesn't exist outside of the area around my hometown. Every fundraiser meal, every restaurant, every backyard get together…all feature the same dishes.

Pinquito Beans
Green Salad
French Bread
Some sort of strawberry-based dessert

Seriously. Sounds pretty simple, right?

Or not…because I didn't realize that people in the majority of the country have never heard of the wonder that is tri-tip. According to Wikipedia, tri-tip is "a cut of beef from the bottom sirloin primal cut. It is a small triangular muscle, usually 1.5 to 2.5 lbs. (675 to 1,150g) per side of beef."

Blah blah blah. I don't know meat.

What I do know is that it is fan-freaking-tastic deliciousness!

It's not smothered in sauce, just dry rub.  Back home every park, church, and many a backyard is outfitted with one of these:
Image via Steve Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible

a simple, but special, grill that allows for the meat to be cooked over coast live oak and the heat to be controlled.

Yeah…I don't have one of those.  Heck, I was literally almost in tears the first time I even found tri-tip around here!

My husband, a great guy around the grill, didn't know tri-trip.  I had to Google and explain what tri-tip should be like until he got it

Oh boy did he get it :-)

My husband is a die-hard Weber grill fan, no gas at our house.  Thankfully, it's actually pretty easy to cook a "real" tri-tip without the fancy grill.  They cook super quickly.  Sear over direct heat on each side for about 5 minutes to get that nice, smokey bark.  Then move to indirect heat and cook till internal temp reaches about 135.  That's it!  So simple.  Please don't forget the wood chips...oak is best, but really whatever you have is better than nothing.  You need that yummy smoke!  When it's done, wrap it in foil (yes, PLEASE wrap AFTER grilling!)  and let it sit for 10 minutes.  Unwrap, and slice thinly against the grain.

Did I mention the leftovers make amazing sandwiches?

This is the dry rub recipe I use- but I do add a Tablespoon each of dried parsley and brown sugar and halve the salt. If you can't find tri-tip in your area you can sub top-block sirloin. It will be awesome...but fair warning, it won't be tri-tip. :-)

(As with all of my posts, click on the picture to get the recipe!)

Next up?  Pinquito beans.
Pinquito beans are a hybrid bean that are native to the Central Coast.  They can be purchased online, but I tend to just sub pinto beans rather than paying shipping :-)
They're so yummy and flavorful.  This is my favorite recipe to recreate the beans I remember from home.

Top the beans (and meat) with salsa...fresh, flavorful, pico de gallo.  None of that pureed, blah, bad Mexican restaurant stuff :-)
You can generally buy fresh salsa in the refrigerated section at the store (even in TN!) but why?  So simple and so much better if you make your own.  I'd suggest something like this recipe- very simple and easy to adapt to your own tastes.

The green salad?  lol pretty self explanatory, as is the garlic-y buttery french bread.
As far as the dessert?  Strawberries.  Yummy strawberries.  Strawberries plain with sugar.  Strawberries in shortcake.  Strawberries on vanilla ice cream.  Strawberry pie, maybe?  Who cares, just serve some sweet summery strawberry goodness for dessert  :-)

There you have it- Santa Maria Style BBQ.  My husband can't keep the name straight, he continues to accidentally call it Santa Monica Style BBQ- sacrilege ;-)  
It seems so simple, right?  But oh boy...it's just perfect.  Many people serve this with macaroni and cheese, but I prefer the untraditional potato salad myself.  Whatever you like, as long as you leave the basic structure alone.  This is just plain good stuff. :-)

Tri Tip Rub

3 Tbsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp parsley
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 pounds tri tip roast

1. In a medium bowl, combine garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix together and coat both sides of tri tip.

2. Make sure to use wood chips!  Sear over direct heat on each side for about 5 minutes to get that nice, smokey bark.  Then move to indirect heat and cook till internal temp reaches about 135.

3. Wrap it in foil and let it sit for 10 minutes.  Unwrap, and slice thinly against the grain.


  1. I encountered a lot of resistance and disbelief when trying to spread the Santa Maria-Style Tri-Tip gospel here in TX (Land of Brisket and BBQ Snobs). Matt has come around though and consented that tri-tip is a lot more tender and quicker to cook than waiting around all day on a brisket. We've been able to find it at some grocery stores (and Costco on occasion), but I wish it were more readily available!

    I will have to try out the recipe for the beans. I have this memory of Pioneer Day beans and beans at McLintock's (the original one) being so fantastic, but it's been a lot of years!

  2. Delicious homage to home, my dear. Now I've got a craving!! <3

  3. :-) Thanks girls! I've been spreading the love here too, Christina. My husband is definitely a convert now!

  4. I have never heard of this style of BBQ. It looks amazing though and I know I can purchase a tri-tip cut of beef here. Those beans...yum! Regional dishes are so funny...what is so common to you, is so foreign to others! Thanks for sharing this!

  5. You'll have to try it Renee, it's delicious!


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