Grilled Sous-Vide Tri-tip, Kale Salad, Double Baked Potatoes

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.

Those Who Wish Me Dead (Taylor Sheridan – 2021) D+

I expected much more from Sheridan after Hell or High Water and Wind River. Two excellent movies. Instead we get a muddled, predictable, and shallow action movie. We have seen so many like this cliched premise and many have done it better. Kid in danger, Angelina Jolie is a Montana fire fighter who is dealing with PTSD stuff needs to keep him safe so that Littlefinger and Peter the Great do not kill him for some information he has that is never explained.

There’s no “I” in Threesome (Jan Oliver Lucks – 2021) B+

Tough to tell how to judge this one. On the surface it is a documentary about a couple who decide to pursue polyamory as a sort of “letting loose” before they get married. They supposedly setup rules that they proceed to break. It’s a weird and complicated situation and the twist in the last 10 minutes of this sheds yet a who new light and perspective on what we have been watching. I think I liked it.

California Split (Robert Altman – 1974) A-

Of course I cannot help but compare and contrast this Altman film to Croupier that I posted about recently. I saw both very close after each other on the Criterion Channel and they both revolve around gambling and gamblers. Yet, they cannot be more different. Our two protagonists here are not cool or smooth or polished. They are played by Elliott Gould and the late George Segal as Charlie and Bill. They are both low-level gamblers but Charlie seems to have more fun with it. No doubt they are addicts yet somehow Bill is more sad. Possibly because Charlie just does not have much to lose it seems. He lives one day at a time, drinks beer with cereal for breakfast and roommates with a couple of prostitutes. Bill is actually employed at a publishing house and might have a family somewhere. As they both go deeper into money troubles always looking for the next score we follow along as they plan a for major gambling event in Reno that will surely solve all their troubles. Gambling is such a second nature to them that everything is up for a bet, as they are getting mugged they basically are betting that the mugger will not shoot them if the only give him half the money! It’s not a plot-heavy film and is a classic Altman work in how the camera moves and how the dialogues is delivered with characters speaking with and over each other. We get to liking the characters, including the two prostitutes and we want to see them work all their issues out.

Croupier (Mike Hodges – 1998) B+

Clive Owen plays Jack Manfred, we don’t know too much about his background but we learn glimpses of it in the course of the film. He must’ve been a gambler at some point although he does not gamble anymore, he sure knows how to deal cards and maybe his relationship with his father is not the best. He wants to write a novel, he gets assigned by his publisher to write one about soccer. Soon after though he takes a job as a croupier, a dealer, at a London casino. His life there soon starts seeping into his novel, or maybe it is the other way around. Or both. Owen narrates as Jack and as Jake his novel’s protagonist. His girlfriend is a character in his new novel and is his actual girlfriend. He meets various players, some cheats, other are sad gamblers. They make it to his novel. The key character he meets is Jani (Alex Kingston). She is a good gambler but needs help since she owes some bad people some money. It might seem like a cliché story at this point but Croupier does not behave or reach the same conclusions as other similar movies. Jack is more of an observer, an analyst of all that is going on in the casino and his life. It relies on cool subtle style, good performances and trusts in us to follow along.

Man Push Cart (Ramin Bahrani – 2005) A-

Ahmed is a Pakistani immigrant who we watch as he pulls his heavy cart in the busy streets of Manhattan at 3 AM every morning. He is a street vendor who sells coffee, bagels and such to New Yorkers everyday. Many of them seem to like him, they are regulars. He knows what how they take their coffee and if they like cream cheese with their bagel. Very few actually know him. They never ask about his story. Why should they? Ahmed was a rock star at one point in Pakistan, he was married and has a son. He has been a widower for about a year. We see glimpses of his prior life but Bahrani never provides us a full picture of why Ahmed left Pakistan, what happened to his wife and why her parents seem to blame him for her loss. This is not a movie with a plot, it’s a snapshot of Ahmed’s life over a period of a few days and the people he meets. Not everyone (very few actually) manage to realize the fabled American Dream even though we like to think all immigrants come over here, work hard, get rich and buy a house with a white picket fence in the suburbs. Ahmed sure does not.

My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin – 2007) B+

My first ever exposure to “the mad poet of Manitoba” is this movie. Don’t know if it is the ideal entry point but I’m thinking pretty much any other of his stuff is gonna be equally as unideal (I saw some of his shorts also available on Criterion Channel and got that sense). I’ll admit I fell asleep the first time watching this about a third of the way through, yet I kept thinking about it and wanted to see more. He was apparently commissioned by the city officials to create a documentary about his hometown. What we get is definitely not a documentary in any conventional sense, but a strange and surreal combination of documentary footage, re-enactments of Maddin’s life, myths about Winnipeg, it’s topography, how it was founded, its taxi companies and long opinionated segments about past and present Hockey sports’ arenas. Yes, this one has all that and more. It is strange and great.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (Zack Snyder – 2021) B-

I was ready to hate it, but I don’t. Overall I actually liked this and was rarely bored. Is it a great movie that I needed to see or ever see again? No. It is overly long, has a bit too much slo-mo, some really dumb character moments, Superman portrayal kind of sucks and Batman looks bored. To top it off the horrible epilogue almost ruins the whole thing. On the other hand characters like Cyborg and Flash are good. So, not a bad movie.

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