Daughter Miriam asked for Spanish flavored barbecue for her birthday feast. What came to my mind was a Pimentón de la Vera—Spanish smoked paprika—dry rub. In Spain this kind of seasoning would usually be used on a rib eye steak, but in California we loves us a tri-tip roast.
The major spice component of this dry rub is Pimentón de la Vera, Spanish smoked paprika. This spice is made from pimiento peppers, which can be either mild or hot. The dulce—sweet—paprika is about the same heat as Hungarian Sweet paprika. The picante—hot—version is quite spicy, use the Pimentón de la Vera Pecante with caution.
Tri-tip is a very popular barbecue roast in California. It is an oddly shaped piece of beef—triangular and usually thicker in the middle than at the pointed ends—that makes it a challenge to cook evenly. On the up side, if you have some diners who like their meat rare and others that like it well done this is the cut for you.
While I normally might add at least powdered onion and garlic to a spice rub like this, Miriam is having trouble with these aromatics lately. To accommodate her needs I decided to look to Argentina to add a spicy boost for my diners who would miss having these flavorful ingredients. Chimichurri verde is an uncooked fresh herb salsa perfect to enhance grilled beef. So that Miriam would not miss out, I also made some chimichurri without garlic and onions as well.
Note: To go with my Spanish tri-tip I made Medjool dates stuffed with chorizo, white gazpacho, ensalada mixta, patatas bravas, and for dessert wife Jan made cinnamon chocolate mousse—which we make instead of birthday cakes at our house.
Karl’s Spanish Tri-tip with Chimichurri Verde
3-4 lb. beef tri-tip
Karl’s Spanish Dry Rub
1 Tbs. Pimentón de la Vera Dulce (smoked Spanish paprika mild)
½ tsp. Pimentón de la Vera Pecante (smoked Spanish paprika hot) or cayenne
½ tsp. oregano, dried
½ tsp. black pepper
½ Tbs. Kosher salt
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup flat leafed parsley
1 cup cilantro
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 2 green onions, dark-green part only, finely chopped
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. sherry vinegar
1 Tbs. lemon juice
¼ tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. raw agave syrup
½ tsp. oregano, dried
¼ tsp. black pepper
* See Note step 10
Marinating the beef
1. Put the paprikas, oregano, pepper and salt in a spice grinder and pulse it several times to mix it completely.
2. Trim the tri-tip to your liking, and cut half inch crosshatches through the fat cap.
Tip: Try to cut through the fat without cutting too deeply into the meat below.
Note: Beef tri-tips are sold either “trimmed” of “untrimmed,” meaning that the thick fat cap that covers one side of the roast has be completely or partially trimmed away—some cooks think that this is a heresy. With Jan’s fat restrictions I prefer mine mostly trimmed—an eighth inch cap is OK, but not a three eighths inch slab of dense fat. Some cooks prefer to remove the entirely fat cap.
3. Rub the spice blend all over the tri-tip.
Tip: I keep an old empty spice bottle with a shaker top just for this purpose. Sprinkle the spice all over the meat and then rub it in.
4. Lightly brush all sides of the meat with olive oil.
Tip: Some of the flavor elements of the spices are water soluble and others are oil soluble. Between the oil and the moisture in the meat these essences will be drawn into the meat.
5. Place the tri-tip into a gallon plastic bag .
6. Squeeze the air out of the plastic bag, seal it tightly and put it in the refrigerator.
7. Marinate the beef for at least 4-5 hours.
Tip: Overnight is better.
8. One hour before you plan to start barbecuing, set the tri-tip on a tray on the counter and let it air dry.
Tip: This rest lets the meat come to room temperature and to allow the surface to dry out, so that you get a good sear when the meat hits the meat.
9. While the meat is warming is a good time to make the Chimichurri.
10. Pile the parsley and cilantro on a cutting mat and sprinkle the salt over the herbs.
Note: I would usually add the green onion and garlic to the herbs at this point and chop them all together. To accommodate Miriam, I chopped them separately and added them to the salsa after I reserved some for her use.
Tip: This is an American Test Kitchen trick. The salt bring out the moisture in the herbs and causes them to stick together. This make it easier to get a good mince without the bits of herbs bouncing all over the place. Putting all of the ingredients in a blender would be quicker, but if you over process them the herbs will turn into a green paste. One of the tricks of this salsa is not to chop the herbs too finely. You are going for discrete, identifiable flakes of herbs.
11. Put the herbs and the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, zest, agave, oregano, and pepper in a small bowl and mix them thoroughly.
Note: After I mixed everything together, I took out a quarter cup of the salsa for Miriam’s use and then added the onions and garlic.
12. Cover the salsa with plastic wrap and let it meld for at least half an hour before serving.
Grilling the beef
If using a charcoal grill:
13a. Start your coals and when they are ready build a bi-level fire and place an aluminum pan on the front side of the barbecue. Replace the grill and heat it for 5 minutes.
Tip: Push all of the coals to the back of the barbecue. This gives you a hot zone—to sear—and a cooler zone—to roast the meat.
If using a gas grill:
13b . Oil the grill and then set the burners on one side to high flame and the other side to low flame. Close the lid and let the grill heat for five minutes.
Note: Jan has finally talked me into going gas—we have had too many “spare the air” days spoiling our barbecues.
14. Place the tri-tip, fat cap side down on the hot side of the grill.
15. Close the grill and sear the beef for 10 minutes.
Tip: This should be long enough to get a good set of grill marks on the top of your beef.
16. Flip the roast and sear the second side for 10 minutes.
17. Turn the meat over—fat cap up—and place roast on the cool side of the grill.
Tip: With the thickest part of the roast at the edge of the coals/hot side of the grill with the thinner end slanted toward the cool side of the grill.
Note: Because of the odd shape of the tri-tip the narrow end will tend to overcook before the wider end is even close to being done. By careful placement on the grill you can avoid this problem.
18. Insert a constant-read meat thermometer, set to 129-132º F, into the thickest part of the meat and close the grill again.
Tip: Daughter Miriam likes her beef bloody (129º F), but wife Jan likes hers well done (140º F).
Note: The shape of the tri-tip allows you to please everyone. The thin end tips come out well done and the thick center part comes out medium or rare.
19. Continue roasting, covered and undisturbed, until the alarm rings, about another 20-30 minutes.
20. Remove the roast to a platter and wrap the tri-tip in aluminum foil to rest for 10 minutes.
Tip: The covered meat will continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 136-140º F, as the heat from the outer parts of the meat moves into the center and the juices migrate to the outer edges.
21. Slice the beef across the grain into serving portions.
Tip: I captured the juices and put them in a small bowl for people to spoon over their meat or the steamed rice I served on the side.
Note: An oddity of tri-tip roast is that the grain of the meat runs along the short side of the triangle. When you are slicing up the roast, it would seem that the obvious thing to do is to start at one of the thin points and slice towards the middle. This ends up cutting along the grain of the muscles, giving you slices that are tough to chew. The solution is to crosscut the triangle down the middle from the point to the long side. Rotate each piece of meat 90º and slice each half from the cut to the remaining points.
22. Serve the meat warm with the Chimichurri verde on the side.