Last week, in honor of Julia Child’s 100th birthday, I was looking through my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking for a tri-tip recipe. I thought, the woman was a genius with all things beef, so she must have come up with something pretty great. I was surprised to find not a single tri tip in sight. Naturally, I Googled and found an entry by one blogger, who’d posted Julia Child’s beef brisket saying, “Those of you from the West Coast of the United States probably aren’t familiar with Brisket. Brisket is what the rest of the country eats instead of tri-tip.” Yeesh.
So, I Wikipedia’d tri-tip, and it turns out that at the time Julia Child would’ve been working on Mastering the Art of French Cooking, tri-tip didn’t exist.
In the United States, this cut was typically used for ground beef or sliced into steaks until the late 1950s, when Otto Schaefer marketed it in Oakland, California. Shortly thereafter, it became a local specialty in Santa Maria, California, rubbed with salt, pepper, garlic salt, and other seasonings, grilled slow and low over red oak wood, and roasted whole on a rotisserie, smoked in a pit, baked in an oven, grilled, or braised in a Dutch oven after searing on a grill. After cooking, the meat is normally sliced across the grain before serving.
So, in honor of Julia, here’s a recipe inspired by her Steak au Poivre. It works well with tri-tip, as tri-tip’s lean and cooks well in a saute pan. Remember, the secret to tri-tip is cooking over medium-high heat for a short time for a rare or medium steak. Cooking the steak medium-well or well-done will make it too dry. Personally, I prefer the “just let it look at the oven in terror, and bring it out to me” approach. Serve it with roasted potatoes and a nice green salad, or green beans with olive oil and dill. The modified recipe saves you about 200 calories and 27 grams of fat, and it cuts saturated fat down by a third.
Note: This can also be done on the grill by searing first in a pan to start the sauce, then transferring to a grill for the rest of the cooking.
Tri-Tip à la Julia Child
2 tbsp of a mixture of several kinds of peppercorns, or white peppercorns
2 lbs tri tip
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp minced shallots
1/2 cup beef broth, fat free and low sodium
1/3 cup cognac
2 tbsp olive oil
Fresh water cress or garden herbs
1. Crush the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle or the bottom of a bottle.
2. Blot the tri-tip dry with paper towels. Rub the crushed peppercorns into both sides of the meat. Cover and let stand for at least a half hour, or for as long as 2-3 hours.
3. Pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees. On your stove, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, thick-bottomed skillet. Saute the meat on each side for about 2 minutes to sear it. Transfer the meat to an oven-safe pan and finish cooking approximately 10-15 minutes. Be sure to check doneness with a meat thermometer. 125 degrees Fahrenheit, measured with an instant-read thermometer inserted into the deepest point of the meat, is rare, 135 is medium-rare, and 140 is medium. Cooking tri tip hotter than this produces dry, overdone steak. Remove to a hot platter, season with sea salt, and keep warm while completing the sauce.
4. While the steak is in the oven, pour the fat out of the skillet. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and our shallots and cook slowly for a minute. Pour in the stock and boil down over high heat, all the while stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up the coagulated cooking juices.
5. Add the cognac to the skillet and boil for 1-2 minutes to cook off the alcohol. Remove from heat and swirl in the remaining tbsp olive oil. Garnish the steak platter with garden herbs, pour the sauce over the steak, and serve.