It is always a challenge to decide what to make for Christmas Eve dinner. I have done lamb, crab & lobster bisque, and last year I made tamales—since Jan discovered that she is a quarter Cora, we have been trending toward Mexican cuisine in our Christmas celebrations. This year, Miriam asked for tri-tip tacos—and tacos call out for beans.
The kids had friends Christmas party to go to in the evening, so we had our feast at lunch. This actually worked out for me, because I really do not like barbecuing in the cold and dark. While many of my tacos lately have included lots of vegetables, I wanted these to be more like Mexican street tacos, just some well seasoned grilled meat and fresh toppings.
Karl’s Christmas Tri-tip Tacos
1 beef tri-tip (~3 lb.)
2½ Tbs. Karl’s Mexican Beef Seasoning Blend
1 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp. coriander seeds, toasted and ground
½ Tbs. paprika
1 tsp. ancho chile powder
1 tsp. California chile powder
1 tsp. New Mexico chile powder
1 tsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper, ground
½ tsp. cinnamon, ground
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. Mexican oregano
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. sugar
1. The day before the meal, trim off most of the fat cap and lightly crosshatch the tri-tip all over.
Note: The will be heretical to many barbecuers, but Jan’s diet makes it necessary to reduce the fat. While the fat cap may protect and baste the meat while cooking, it also prevents the spices from infusing into the meat. You are of course free to leave the fat on.
2. Mix all of the spice blend ingredients together thoroughly.
Note: The list produces about 3 ½ tablespoons of spice. I reserved one tablespoon for my bean dish and put the rest in a spice shaker bottle.
3. Put the tri-tip into a sealable gallon plastic bag.
4. Sprinkle the spice blend all over the meat and massage it in.
Tip: By putting the meat in the bag first you do not have spices flying all over the place and getting lost.
5. Press all of the air out and seal the bag.
6. Refrigerate the tri-tip over night.
7. One hour before you plan to start barbecuing remove the meat from the refrigerator and set it on the counter.
Tip: A cold roast will not cook as evenly as one that is at room temperature.
8. Prepare your grill for cooking.
Note: When barbecuing a thick slab of meat you want to first sear the meat over high heat—to lock in the juices. You then want to move it away from the heat—so that it roasts slowly over indirect heat. This is referred to as a “bi-level” or “two zone” fire.
For a gas grill: Oil the grill and start the gas five minutes before cooking, turning all the burners on high. When you start cooking the meat heat turn off the burners on the other side of the grill—this will now be the cool side of the grill.
If using a charcoal grill: Start the coals about two hours before dinner. Spread the coals against the back of the barbecue and place an aluminum pan on the front side. Replace the grill, oil it and heat for 5 minutes.
9. Remove the tri-tip from the plastic bag and place it on the hot side of the grill, fat cap down.
10. Close the grill and sear for 10 minutes.
11. Turn the meat over, still on the hot side of the grill, and sear the second side for 8 minutes, close the grill.
12. Place the thickest part of the roast, fat side up, at the edge of the heat with the thinner end slanted toward the cool side of the grill.
13. 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 heat toward the cool side of the grill.
14. Then the meat reaches 132º F, about another 20-30 minutes, remove it 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 depends on how close to the heat you have put the meat.
Note: Grilled beef cooked to 132º F and then wrapped in foil to rest continues to cook to 140 º F, which is medium rare.
15. Remove the tri-tip to a sheet of aluminum foil and wrap it up to retain the heat and to rest.
Tip: This gives the juices time to evenly distribute throughout the meat.
Note: Make sure that the open side of the foil packet is on the top. Some of the juices will leave the meat and you do not want to lose them.
16. Slice the beef across the grain into ¼-⅜ inch slices.
Tip: Use a cutting board with a groove around the edge to catch any juices that are released.
17. Stack a few slices of tri-tip at a time, and crosscut them into small bars of beef.
18. Transfer the meat to a serving bowl and pour any captured juices over them.
19. Toss the meat, to coat them with the juices, and serve with tortillas and your favorite toppings.