Was reading David Rosengarten's award-winning newsletter, this month's issue about Kobe beef, including mention of a much-prized cut of meat known as tri-tip. It's what Californians call bottom sirloin butt, especially around Santa Barbara, where they guard their recipes for tri-tip marinade as closely as their neighbors, the Santa Ynez Valley vintners, protect their techniques for making perfect pinot noir.
My brother David, as it happens, is a tri-tip master of Proustean talents. No sooner had I sent him Rosengarten's comments than he replied with this dispatch from his ranch overlooking the vineyards along Alisos Canyon Road:
À la recherche du Tri-Tip perdu...
Marc was just here, and we bbqed some, not according to the SMaria recipe, but with a Bifstek alla Fiorentina type marinade. Marc added some chipotle sauce (to the usual olive oil, italian seasoning, Pappy's sesoning, cracked pepper, garlic) as well as two "secret" ingredients we'd used earlier in the week on oven-roasted leg of goat: Hediard's (yes, Parisian) Raz El Hanout and Mélange Alexandrie.
These two Arabian inspired spice mixtures are what I like to call "dark" in flavor. The Raz has a slight curriness (clove, turmeric, ginger, carvil spice, coriander, cumin, pepper, anise, black pepper), the Alexandrie (black pepper,, cayenne, ginger, clove, coriander, Jamaican pepper, cardomom, fennel, cinnamon and "paradise seeds") a smell that reminds me of a tin of old Balkan Sobranie white label -- remember that stuff?
All goes to show that no recipe is immutable, and that one should follow one's nose (and empty out the refrigerator shelves of obscurities) when cooking.
Explanatory notes to Cornichon readers: Marc is my nephew. Balkan Sobranie is a [discontinued] pipe tobacco favored by a friend of the family.