I've made no secret of my love affair with my favorite beef cut, tri tip. I published an article earlier this year going over the method I've been using for many years. In fact, I was pretty sure I didn't have anything left to learn about the subject. But then...I ran across a recipe for Honey Garlic Glazed Tri Tip in Adam Perry Lang's Serious Barbecue that made me reconsider my position. Adam is a fussy cook. His recipes are a pain in the ass. Even though I'm not much of a recipe guy anymore, I've tried six of Adam's now and they are all money in the bank. This guy is ten feet tall and bulletproof. No wonder Daniel Boulud and Mario Batali love him so much. So, I decided to admit my hubris, put my pride aside, and see what Adam could teach me (and yes I know I didn't rest that tri-tip in the picture long enough, hence the blood on the cutting board...shit happens).
In working through Adam's book, I've picked up on a few of his signature techniques. Among them, Adam like to use a bundle of fresh herbs as a mop. He also likes to lace (impregnate) his cutting board with a mix of liquids and herbs to give his product a last kiss before it hits the plate. The honey garlic tri tip recipe features a wet rub, a dry rub, the aforementioned herb mop, a glaze, and the cutting board trick. It seemed like a great opportunity to see what, if any, of this fussy stuff worked.
The first thing I did for Adam's tri tip was to assemble the wet rub. Combine equal parts (in tablespoons) of beef base, worcestershire sauce, soy, and then a quarter cup chili powder and mix. After doing this recipe a few times, I've found I need to be a little more liberal with the liquids to get the paste to a viscous enough texture to spread easily.
Here is the tri-tip after applying the wet and dry rubs, ready for the grill. Then I went ahead and prepared the glaze. First, for the glaze, you will need a mason jar or some other vessel that has a lid and can be shaken. For the ingredients, the glaze requires 2 T cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/4 cup apple juice, 1/2 cup honey, 1 T worcestershire sauce, 5 garlic cloves run across a microplane, and 4 T melted, unsalted butter. Combine all ingredients in your jar and then shake VIOLENTLY!
So, here is where we enter fiddly-land. Being a good soldier, I played along with the recipe. I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut a few fresh sprigs of rosemary and tied them to a wooden spoon for a quasi-mop cum basting brush for my glaze. I can see where this is going to look great, but I have my doubts about the ultimate outcome.
After all the muss and fuss, Adam's recipe settled down into familiar territory. The tri-tip is first seared off over direct coals and high heat and then moved to indirect heat. As the tri-tip approaches medium rare, the glaze is applied with the rosemary herb brush and then finished off.
So...did the herb brush make a difference in the final product? Not that I could tell. Did it look great? Hell, yes. For a live cooking, catering event this is a MUST. It looks sexy and people will be utterly convinced it works. But...between you and me (dear reader) not so much.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of Adam's madness is the idea of lacing the cutting board with a variety of flavors that the meat can pick up in those precious few seconds before plating. In the case of this recipe, the cutting board is loaded with olive oil, lemon juice, chives, and salt. It makes perfect sense and is genius. I've made this technique a permanent part of methodology.
In the end, I've decided to throw away my old recipe in favor of Adam's. That's no small thing.