Tri-tip is not a beef cut that is very common in my part of the country. A few months back, I could not even find it (and was not really looking). Tri-tip is a cut from the bottom sirloin, triangular shaped (hence the name) and is very popular in California, where it is sometimes called Santa Maria Steak. Since it is cut from the bottom sirloin it is very close to muscles doing a lot of work, but is not exactly as active as a chuck piece would be. So, it is somewhere in the middle when it come to tenderness. It also has little marbling, but usually has a small cap of fat. Cooking methods for the Tri-tip seem to vary a lot. I’ve seen instructions for a quick sear on hot grill or pan, a slow-low heat of the oven, smoking like a brisket or even braising. Since I have no point of reference having never tasted a tri-tip before I used my judgment and advice from the good folks on the Sous Vide thread over at eGullet.org.
Cooking it Sous Vide (CSV) seemed like a no-brainer and a rare to medium-rare temperature (about 132F) was also obvious. But for how long? That is the most important question, at least to me, when it comes to CSV. I decided to go with the lower number for the suggested range of time (between 12 and 48 hrs!)
The piece of beef was rubbed with a mixture of miso, Ancho chile, honey and soy. It was then wrapped tight in Saran Wrap and vacuum packed with a FoodSaver. The Saran makes sure that no liquid is sucked out by the FoodSaver. This was a neat trick and I might use it again even though with the machine’s Pulse function it is relatively simple to make sure no liquid gets sucked in. The advantage of using the Saran wrap though is the ability to get a much tighter vacuum. The marinated, vaccum packed tri-tip was cooked for 12 hours at 132F. It was then cooled in a bowl of ice water and refrigerated. For service, I gave it a quick sear in the cast iron skillet and sliced it .I made the stupid mistake to slice some of it with instead of against the grain too before noticing my mistake and correcting it for the second plate. Either way the beef was excellent, juicy and tender. I think I will marinate the meat ahead of time next time because the thicker (wider) pieced of beef were a bit under seasoned.
The other elements on the plate are from the Michel Richard book, “Happy in the Kitchen“. First, we have potato risotto. This is simply a “risotto” made with tiny diced potatoes instead of rice. Potatoes, butter, cream, parmesan and stock make for a delicious dish. Second, we have a leek tartar. I cooked the leeks Sous Vide as well. Unfortunately, leeks, unlike other vegetables will need more than an hour at 185F to be tender enough. These were not so tough to be inedible, but were unpleasant. I cooked them in the microwave for a few minutes till they were soft enough. To finish the tartar, I mixed it with oil, vinegar, mayonnaise, mustard and shallots. I made a sauce with the cooking juices from the beef package, strained, reduced with stock and mounted with a little bit of butter.