Saturday, July 12, 2008

Barbecued Blues

This weekend is the Russell City Blues Festival, so I was serenaded by delta blues this afternoon while riding around downtown Hayward on my bike.  Russell City was a predominately African-American section of unincorporated Alameda county between Hayward and San Lorenzo that was a hub of Bay Area blues after WWII.  

It's now a part of the city of Hayward,  but there's a blues festival every year to pay tribute to the area's Russell City heritage.  Strangely, the only black faces I usually see at the blues festival are the ones on the stage.

Anyway, hearing the blues puts me in the mood for barbecue, so I picked up a Santa Maria tri-tip roast for tonight's dinner. Tri-tip (so called because it's from the bottom part of a bottom sirloin and shaped like a triangle) is a versatile cut of beef that's usually sold as ground beef or stir-fry beef in other parts of the country, but grilled whole in Northern California.   

Tri-tips are usually 1.5-2 pounds, which is just right for two people, or one person who hasn't had anything to eat all day.   The best way to cook it is like a beef brisket (i.e. slow) with damp wood chips to get a smoky flavor.  It doesn't have as much fat as a brisket, so it requires a hot fire (as in glowy hot charcoal.. doesn't work on a gas grill or in an oven).  

Rub the meat with a dry rub (equal parts salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder) a few minutes before cooking, then throw it on the grill under direct heat for about 15 minutes per side.  Let it set for five minutes, then slice thin.   The usual side dishes are bread or tortillas, something green (salad or coleslaw) and either good beer or cheap red wine (nothing over $5/bottle!).

When done right, grilled tri-tip makes a simple and satisfying meal.  Just like the blues.

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