Oh, Foodie faithful–if you’re still with me, I appreciate your patience. This is the time of year when people who work in academia go a little crazy trying to get everything done before another year wraps up. As a result, this is also the time of year when I do less cooking than I’d like to–mostly because, by the time I get home on any given day, it’s all I can do to sit upright until the bedtime hour has arrived.
Having said that, I’ll add this: one of my favorite things to make for dinner on nights like these is a tri-tip roast. Tri-tip is fairly low in fat, but still tender and tasty even without major preparations like marinating or tenderizing. It’s the triangular portion left over at the base of the sirloin after a butcher has cut it into steaks. Usually, a tri-tip roast weighs about 2 pounds–perfect for dinner, with enough leftovers for the next day’s lunch, but not so many leftovers that you’ll get sick of seeing it in the refrigerator. All you have to do is stick the roast in a shallow pan, then pop it in a 400-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes, just until your meat thermometer registers 130 degrees. When rubbed all over with this steak seasoning before its trip to Oventown, tri-tip is really, really delicious.
Whenever someone tells me that they hate making steaks at home, because they just don’t taste like the steaks you get at a restaurant, I tell them these things:
- You might not be letting it warm up before putting it on the heat. If you don’t let meat sit at room temperature for about 20 to 30 minutes before cooking it, the outside will be done long before the inside even has a chance to warm up.
- You might be cooking it too long. Meat continues cooking, due to residual heat, after you take it out of the oven or off the grill, so you need to remove it about 10 degrees before your preferred temperature–and you really need to use a meat thermometer.
- You might not be letting it rest. If you cut into just-off-the-heat steaks, their juicy goodness spills all over the plate because heat brings it to the surface. Cover the steak in aluminum foil and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes, so the juices can redistribute themselves throughout the meat.
- You might not be seasoning it well enough.
In my humble opinion, most people are afraid of seasoning–partly because they don’t know what spices go with which items, partly because they’re afraid of ruining their food with too much spice, and partly because they’re in a hurry to get food on the table. I love this steak seasoning mixture because it’s ready to go and requires no forethought: I just shake it out of the storage bottle, press it into the surface of the meat, and get ready to cook. Start with about a tablespoon of this seasoning per steak and judge your own tastes from there. You might want more or less. (And if you want less, just scrape it off your steak. The residual flavors will still be there, but at a less intense level. Voila! All better. It really is that easy.)
Sometimes I leave out the red pepper in this mixture, since we aren’t big on super-spicy foods in the Foodie family. Sometimes I use about half the amount listed below, and sometimes I use the full amount. It really just depends on my mood when I’m mixing up a new batch. I always keep this on hand, though, because it’s useful in so many ways: for seasoning hamburgers, adding to beef-based soups or stews, even for seasoning gravy. I love this stuff. If you’re worried about the amount of salt it calls for, keep in mind that sea salt is far less intense than regular iodized table salt and the two are not interchangeable. Sea salt is more like a suggestion of salt, whereas table salt is in-your-face sodium. If you don’t have sea salt on hand, I’d recommend using about a tablespoon of table salt. Or, better yet, heading to the store and buying sea salt. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
4 T. coarse sea salt
1 T. freshly ground black pepper
1 T. onion powder
1 T. dry parsley
1/2 T. crushed red pepper
1/2 T. garlic powder
1/2 T. dry thyme
1/2 T. dry rosemary
1/2 T. fennel seeds
Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight bottle with a shaker top. Shake or rub about 1 tablespoon of the seasoning mixture onto steaks or burgers; press spices into the surface of the meat before roasting or grilling.