Remembrance of California Barbecues


Ranch sunset.2.jpg

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.

Grilling at Highfield Ranch.jpg TriTip on the grill.jpg

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.

By the by [David's dispatch continues], the two spices from Hediard were purchased at Dean and DeLuca in NYC but are not available on their website.

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There are versions of raz el hanout available from ($5 a bottle), described as:

"Raz el Hanout is an interesting blend of sweet spices essential to Moroccan cooking. I find that this blend brings together fruit and meat wonderfully.
Besides couscous and other Moroccan dishes, there are classic European recipes for fruit and meat. A recipe, Pork and Prunes, appears often in old cookbooks. I had tried it once and found it only fairly interesting. When I developed Raz el Hanout, I made it again and it was absolutely terrific. It took what I considered to be a mundane dish and lifted it to new heights." [based here in Seattle, as it happens] has a version for $5.75, described as:

"Ras El Hanout is a truly dazzling combination of spices and herbs that is traditionally improvised by Moroccan merchants in their souks. Depending on the needs of the customer and the complexity of the dish, Ras El Hanout can be comprised of over twenty ingredients. ""Ras el hanout"" means head of the shop, or the ""best of the best"", and only the finest, and often the most esoteric, ingredients are used. India Tree's Ras El Hanout mixture contains allspice, black pepper, mace, nutmeg, cumin, clove, cardamom, turmeric and gingerroot, and dried rosebuds. Ras el Hanout is distinctively Moroccan in character, and is commonly used during the winter months in foods intended to warm the body. Use it to season game, to blend with rice, couscous, tagines. Use with discretion: not only is it a rich and deeply warming spice, it is a purported aphrodisiac!

Finally there's a version from

"In Moroccan language, Ras el Hanout literally means head of the store.
(also known as ras al hanout or ras el hanouth) Ras el Hanout is a spice blend that Zamouri Spices is proud to present as its best and most unique mix that any adventurous palates may love to experience. The secret of this mix and its recipe is past down through generations. Native to Morocco, every spice vendor in that region has its own unique recipe. Zamouri too has its unique blend used only in the remote region of Zamour (North Africa Atlas Mountains) for a thousand year.

"Ingredients could range from 20 to 50 different spices including: Ingredients: Lavender, allspice, paprika, turmeric, ajawan seeds, anise seeds, chili pepper, kalajeera, cloves, galangal, rose buds, black pepper, white pepper, monk's pepper, cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, coriander, cumin, mace, fenugreek, cayenne pepper, yellow curry, cilantro, fennel, sage, orrisroot. (Sorry, no spanish fly. It is illegal in the USA) This blend is claimed to have aphrodisiac properties. Used mostly during cold seasons by locals. You can add a pinch or tsp to your favorite soup, stew."

David w doggies.jpg DAvid and Miki1.jpg


Loved your bro's Proustean search. We'll be sure to swing by Hediard (some products are even available in duty free before we board--or were last time) and pick up some of his mixes before our next flight back to the Pacific Northwest. But spare me the fennel flavor (too much of it when I lived in Milan) and you can keep the cilantro, which overwhelms all of the other good stuff when it hits my palate. On the other hand, he may need the strong herbs to balance all that California oak he's tasting in his wine. Heh heh!

Heh-heh, heh-heh ...

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on July 13, 2005 6:20 AM.

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