Last week, Jan and I went over the hill to Santa Cruz to visit her “new” brother. While we were there, we stopped by a large book store that was going out of business. The cookbook section was fairly picked over, but as I was perusing the fiction section I found a book Izakaya: Japanese Bar food—someone had obviously picked it up and then changed their mind, leaving it “where ever.” Their loss, my gain. This Sunday, I decided to make a Japanese bar style dinner.
Paging through the book I put place markers whenever I came to a recipe that I thought I might like to try. When I finished I had marked easily 70% of the book. I decided that the first one I would try was “beef and green onion skewers.”
The original recipe called for thin planks of steak to be wrapped around a piece of green onion. These were then skewered through the meat and onion to keep them from unrolling. Three rolls are grilled together on one skewer.
Looking at the recipe, Jan threw down a challenge—make it Santa Maria tri-tip skewers. Santa Maria barbecued tri-tip is always smoked, with the preferred wood being red oak. I decided that a bit of wood smoke would be a good addition, but I had to settle on some apple wood chips.
While a tri-tip is a popular California cut, it is an oddly shaped piece of meat. It is a flattened triangle with the grain of the muscles running along the short side. To get a nice rectangular block to slice off cross-grained planks of steak, I had to cut off the narrow arms of the triangle—about half of the roast.
Note: I saved these pieces for another dish—I’m thinking beef teriyaki another day.
Note 2: To go with my beef skewers for my Japanese bar food dinner, I also made: shiitaki and sesame skewers; poke onigri; Japanese pickles, and I served the leftover poke as a separate dish.
Karl’s Japanese Bar Style Santa Maria Tri-tip and Green Onion Skewers
1½ Tbs. Santa Marina Tri-tip spice blend
1 Tbs. Kosher salt
½ Tbs. black pepper, ground
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. onion power
1 tsp. garlic powder
3 lb. tri-tip
1 Tbs. Japanese soy sauce
1 Tbs. mirin
5+ green onions, white parts only
Sufficient 6 inch bamboo skewers, for 3 rolls per skewer, soaked in water for 30 minutes
1. Put the dry ingredients into a small bowl and mix thoroughly.
Tip: I transfer the spices to a shaker jar to sprinkle the mix onto the meat.
2. Cut a block of meat out of the center of the tri-tip, so that you have a 8 x 7 x 1½ inch rectangular slab of meat.
Note: Reserve the ends for another dish.
3. Trim off the thick fat cap.
4. Wrap the meat in plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for one hour.
Tip: Half freezing the meat makes it much easier to slice even, thin planks of beef.
Note: The meat should be firm to the touch, but not frozen solid.
5. Slice the beef—across the grain—into 7 x ¼ inch thick planks.
Tip: Next time I may try to make the slices thinner.
Note: My piece of meat produced 15 slices.
6. Mix the soy sauce and mirin in a shallow tray and dip both sides of the meat slices in the sauce.
Tip: It is alright to stack the slices once they have been dipped.
7. Let the meat marinate for 20-30 minutes.
Tip: Gently re-dip and re-stack the meat so that the sauce is evenly distributed.
Note: Once the beef has thawed, there is a risk that the planks will break apart. Handle them very gently.
8. Cut the white parts of the green onions into 1½-2 inch rods.
Tip: The green onions should stick out of the meat once it has been wrapped around it.
Note: How many green onions you will need to use depends on how long the white parts your onions are—can you get one or two rods from each onion?—and how many slices you got out of your meat.
9. Lay one of the beef slices with the long end facing away from you.
10. Place one of the green onion bars across the meat and roll the beef into a pin-roll.
11. Skewer the free end of the meat—through the onion and the rest of the roll—and press the roll down the skewer.
12. Repeat to pin three roles per skewer.
13. Continue rolling and skewering until you run out of meat and onions.
14. Place the skewers back into the shallow tray and sprinkle both sides with the spice mixture.
15. Cover the tray with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour to marinate.
Note: If using charcoal, start the grill at least an hour before dinner. If you are using smoke prepare you wood chips.
16. Place your skewers directly over the heat and grill each side for 8-10 minutes, until well browned and cooked through.
Note: If using smoke close the grill.
17. Transfer the skewers to a platter and serve warm.
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