My dad is a cowboy. The real deal.

He's the guy in the white shirt.

At age 67, he’s still roping his way across the western United States. Ever since I can remember, in the early summer he meets up with lots of other cowboys. These cowboys roam through California. They spend their nights by campfire telling dirty jokes and eating the best, most real food you can imagine–which of course is where I come in. When I was eight or nine years old, my dad returned from his yearly California trek and told us about a really amazing meal he had. Tri tip, it was called, and he was going to fix it for us. He came home the next day with what looked like a roast. After brining and grilling the piece of meat, he served it with sliced sourdough bread. I was in heaven.

Grandkids watching Grandpa. Guess which ones are mine?

I love tri tip, but recently I’ve learned the hard (and very embarrassing) way that it is best served one of two ways: either grilled on the barbie or slowly roasted until it falls apart.  Now, onto the embarrassing part.

When people ask me what I do, I usually tell them I am raising my four children; that I’ve conscientiously chosen this as my seasonal full time job and I really love it. If they press for more information, I tell them about, my love for food, and that cooking is my one of my greatest joys. That sounds really nice, except when they are eating my food and my food tastes like boiled shoe leather. That, my friends, is what happened last week.

The weather was really getting to me and in desperation I lied and told myself that (quick) oven roasted tri tip would taste just like summer grilled trip tip. Wrong-o. When I write “boiled shoe” I mean it.  We had a few families over. Two hours prior to their arrival, I envisioned a perfectly clean house, well behaved children, a dog who forgot how to bark, and the most beautiful array of food you can imagine: homemade guacamole, salsa and chips, tossed greens with cilantro dressing and marinated tomatoes, slow baked pinto beans, corn bread, and the piece de resistance–tri tip–roasted and carved to perfection.

Yeah, none of that happened. I used Bruce Aidell’s recipe to roast the tri tip but I cooked the meat far too long. As we sat down to eat, it became very apparent to everyone that the meat was inedible; too tough; too yucky. I decided to call a spade and spade and acknowledged that the meat was horrible (thus breaking Julia Child’s rule–never apologize for your food). My friends politely disagreed and spent the next minutes both chewing and looking at me with sincere pity. I’m sure they were thinking, “Oh, the poor dear thinks she can cook. Poor, Poor girl.”

Just to make sure I wasn’t crazy, I tried the same recipe again a week later, but took the meat out at just the right temperature (150 degrees) and let it rest before carving. Fail. Now I know that I just don’t like oven roasted tri tip. I’ll have to wait until I’m brave enough to step outside and grill (not today, it’s 5 degrees outside). Last night, I threw my last tri tip in the slow cooker with 2 cups of water and two packets of dried lipton onion soup. We had marvelous french dip and I once again began to hope that my cooking can match my bragging. Too bad it took a crock pot and instant soup to make me hope again.

So if like me you are craving tri tip, here is how to do it Winter style—
Tri Tip French Dip

1 tri tip roast (weighing anywhere from 2-4 pounds)
2 packets lipton onion dry soup mix
1 Tablespoon Lowery’s seasoned salt
2 cups water

Place all ingredients in crock pot. Put heat on low for six hours or high for 3-4 hours. Meat is done when it easily falls apart. Shred with fork. Reserve juice for dipping. Serve meat with crusty rolls. Best French Dip ever.
(I’ll revisit this article in June, when the grill is up and going and tri tip is in season.)


5 Responses to Dinner: Tri Tip French Dip

  1. Ann says:

    That has happened so often to me too. When there’s no pressure and I’m just cooking on a Wednesday night, magic happens. When folks are coming over and I need it to be good, failure. Ugh.

  2. EmRuss says:

    Just for the record, my mouth still waters when I think of the food you brought me whilst I was recovering from babyness. Was this what you made?? I think it was similar but a little different… you should post that recipe too, unless your memories of being prego and eating it are still too fresh! :) And, (also for the record) you are the cook I aspire to be someday…. someday!!

  3. Fred says:

    I cooked a 4 #er in the oven. Awesome…
    Dry rub: 3TLSP powdered garlic, 1 TLSP sea salt, some black pepper.
    Cooked at 425* for 20 minutes. Take it out, Wrap it up in tin foil. I added Thyme on top (should be cooking fat side up). Put it back in the oven at 475* for 20 minutes.
    Very moist and tasty. Working on a dipping sauce.
    P.S. I am not a cook. Mechanic at a factory.

  4. Buzz says:

    Becca: Kick back. Do it the cowboy way: Massage it (the tri tip) in brine, then cook it over coals turning it often. It works every time. Easterners don’t understand Westerners,and so they don’t cook like we do. They’re also not as healthy and are infinitely more risk averse. We live. They exist. Let’s live! Love, Dad

  5. WeekontheCape says:

    Remind me to tell you about the time I over-shot my skill level and tried to make Christopher Kimball’s southern deep-fried chicken for Reuben’s graduation, inviting the Bennetts and my brother and sister-in-law to join us. O, the hubris to think I could make fried chicken for guests! I marinated the chicken in buttermilk and heated the oil just as Kimball recommends. I had homemade coleslaw, roasted potatoes and biscuits, with blueberry buckle a la mode waiting in the wings. Imagine my horror to discover, after all had filled their plates, that my perfectly golden-crispy fried chicken was rubbery-raw pink in the middle. I wanted to die. Still do, when I think about it.

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