Combining grilling over charcoal with sous-vide precision cooking is the ultimate best-of-both-worlds approach. This is especially true for cuts of beef that are a little tricky to get right like the tri-tip. It has an uneven shape and thickness, it can also come out tough or dry if not cooked and sliced right. In this case maybe this post should be called “grilled SV and pan-seared” since that is the approach I took but that is a bit wordy.
So, first step is to grill our steak over charcoal. I did that as the first step of a completely different dinner. No need to light a fire just for the steak that will need it for only a couple minutes. I had the grill going, the coals where blazing hot. I rubbed the tri-tip with a little oil and laid it on the hot grates to get a good char and color on it. This should not take more than a minute or so per side. The goal is to develop a deep brown crust which equals a lot of flavor as the steak then cooks sous-vide.
After the grill, I let the steak cool a bit then bagged it with some herbs and a couple of pats of butter. This is my go-to steak in a bag method. No salt at all at this stage usually. I only salt the steak if I know it will cook for a short period of time and I will be eating it soon after. Salting a steak that will cook for longer times and might get stored in the fridge after would risk it having a cured or “hammy” texture that I do not like. The tri-tip cooks sous-vide at 55C for about 12 hours and is now ready for the pan and service. I took it our of the bag, dried the surface well and seared it in a carbon steal pan with butter and more herbs to get a crusty brown surface on it. This also takes a minute per side or so depending on thickness and ensures the inside remains rosy medium to medium rare. As soon as it comes out of the pan I season with salt, then slice it and season with salt again. Now it is ready to serve.
Double bakes potatoes are a steak-house American classic. They are awesome balls of carbs, cheese and butter. After baking the potatoes until tender I cut each into 2pieces lengthwise. One piece a bit bigger than the other. All the potato flesh gets scooped out and mixed with butter, cheddar cheese, an egg yolk or two, bacon bits (if I have them), green onions (almost always), a little sour cream or crème fraiche and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. More or less mix-ins can go in there too. This can make a great meal if needed with enough fillings. The potato mixture gets loaded back in the larger of the hollow potato halved topped with more cheese and then baked again until brown, crusty and bubbly.
Kale salads more often than not suck. They feel like eating lawn clippings and with the effort of selling them as health foods, the dressing is light and watery. Until I tried the Jonathan Waxman kale salad from his Barbuto Cookbook I rarely made them or ate them. For me kale belonged in the pot to make a good Tuscan Ribbolitta or hearty French Garbure maybe. The Barbuto salad though is something the restaurant is famous for. I tried it and have made it numerous time since, even my teenage boys love it. It really is a take on Caesar salad with a dressing that can stand up to the kale’s rustic texture.
The dressing is made in a bowl, almost like an emulsion but it really can be a broken one. Egg yolk, Dijon mustard, anchovies, fresh basil and garlic are whisked well and then olive oil is incorporated in there to make a very loose Caesar dressing. The kale is sliced thin, including the stems (well I get rid of the part of the kale stem all the way at the bottom the thick one with no green leaf attached). It is then dressed aggressively with the dressing and mixed well using your hands. Pecorino Romano (Manchego or Parmesan work well too) are mixed in and the greens are finally topped with olive oil toasted bread crumbs (like tiny croutons!). It’s a divine salad that is amazing with a meal like this. It also keeps well, can be mixed an hour or two ahead of time and even tastes excellent the next day.