We have not had a Sunday feast in a couple weeks—travel and other events got in the way. As I was trying to come up with Sunday’s meal, Jan first suggested barbecued tri-tip and then Argentina. To Goggle I went, to discover just what that entailed.
Argentina has a beef eating cuisine, at 120.2 pounds per capita per year. They are edged out only by Uruguay (at 124.2 pounds) and leave the U.S. in the dust (at only 79.3 pounds). In the same way that the American West has a fabled history of cowboys and barbecue, Argentina has a history of gaucho and asado.
There appears to be three styles of Argentine barbecue. What I would call “city barbecue”—marinated in citrus juices, oil and spices—strongly influenced by Mediterranean cuisines. “Gaucho steak”—with a dry rub of salt and just a little chili or black pepper served with chimichurri on the side—apparently a restaurant creation. And finally what I would call “true” Gaucho barbecue, fire grilled beef basted only with salmuera—a strong saltwater solution. When you are out on the Pampas there are no stores to pick up oil and herbs for a marinade.
While the Argentinean preferred barbecue meat is skirt steak, I will be adapting this recipe to California and use tri-tip. There is also a special Argentinean grill, a parrillas (A.K.A. Gaucho grill), that has a rack that can be raised and lowered to control the heat. This grill is also designed to draw the heat from the hot side of grill over the meat on the cool side. I do not own a parrillas, so I will be adapting my gas grill.
While it seems to be originally a restaurant creation to go with “Gaucho steak,” Chimichurri—a sauce of herbs, garlic and vinegar—is now a standard condiment for Argentinean asado. Unlike other South American variations of this sauce, the Argentineans do not usually include chili in their chimichurri.
Karl’s Argentinean Tri-tip
2 Tbs. Kosher salt, dissolved in ¾ cup of water
1. If the tri-tip has a thick fat cap trim much of it off.
Tip: Leave about a ¼ inch over the side and score cross hatches through the remaining fat cap about an inch apart.
Note: If the tri-tip has been refrigerated, set the roast on the counter to come to room temperature for one hour.
2. Start the coals at least an hour before dinner.
Note: For a gas grill, start heating on high 10 minutes before grilling.
3. Spread the coals against the back of the barbecue and place an aluminum pan on the front side. Replace the grill and heat it for 5 minutes.
Tip: Use a paper towel to spread vegetable oil on the grate. You do not need an aluminum pan with a gas grill.
Note: For a gas grill, turn off the burners on one side of the grill and oil the grate.
4. Place the tri-tip, fat cap down, over the hot side of the grill.
Tip: Close the grill lid.
5. Sear the first side of the tri-tip for 10 minutes.
6. Flip the meat over and baste the fat cap with the salt water solution.
7. Sear the second side of the tri-tip for another 10 minutes.
8. Place the meat on the cool side of the grill fat cap up and baste both sides of the tri-tip with the salmuera.
Note: Close the grill
9. Roast the meat for 20 minutes.
10. Turn the meat over and place the thickest part of the roast at the edge of the coals with the thinner end slanted from the heat.
11. Baste both sides of the tri-tip with the salmuera again.
12. Insert a constant-read meat thermometer and close the grill again.
Tip: If you have a tri-tip that is thick on one end and thin at the other use this technique. If you have a tri-tip that is thick in the middle and thin at both ends lay it just off the edge of the coals toward the front of the grill.
13. Then the meat reaches 135º F, about another 20-30 minutes, remove the tri-tip from the grill and wrap it in tin foil to rest for 10 minutes.
Tip: How long your meat will take to reach this temperature can vary on your personal grill.
Note: Grilled beef cooked to 135º F and then wrapped in foil to rest continues to cook to 140 º F, which is medium rare.
14. Slice thickly across the grain and serve.