Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Free Cook Book Update: Barbecue Recipes

It sure was difficult choosing a recipe from the Military Wives Cookbook. You may just want to check my post for yesterday to find out how you can win a free copy. Oh, you didn't know I was having a Free Cookbook Give-Away! Hurry back...

Military Wives Cookbook

At first, I was going to post the recipe for Peach Nectar & Basil Lemonade found on page 27. Perfect for the beginning of National Herb Week which began on May 3rd. And, so refreshing too! However, the Herb of the Year for 2009 is Bay Laurel. I browsed through the Military Wives Cookbook, or should I say, I b..r..o..w..s..e..d. There's much to see you know. I finally decided on Santa Maria Style Barbecue recipes. A GREAT combination of recipes for Barbecue Month, Salsa Month, and Salad Month all in the month of May. Perfecto!

As an admitted "Air Force Brat," the author, Carolyn Quick Tillery, had the opportunity to travel all over the world. When she and her husband were reassigned to the central coast of California, she rediscovered the Barbecue Capital of California, Santa Maria. Mrs. Tillery shares a brief history of the Santa Maria Style Barbecue on page 204 in the Military Wives Cookbook. Rather than repeat it here, because I dying to share her recipe, I found the unique story of the the barbecue born and bred on the central coast of California online. (I left The Story of the Santa Maria Style Barbecue below also:) Not only does the town of Santa Maria have its own distinct style of barbecue, it's copyrighted in order to prevent commercial establishments from advertising their barbecue as the "real thing." Yes, indeed, by the Santa Barbara County local Chamber of Commerce. Hold your horses, there's more! Traditionally, Santa Marians also have their own cut of meat; the Tri Tip. What, you never heard of the Tri Tip? Quite frankly, neither had I. There could be a reason. The Tri Tip Steak, which also happened to be quite inexpensive, had its beginnings in Santa Maria. A former butcher by the name of Larry Viegas, shared the story of triangle steak, that's another name for it, with Via Magazine back in 2003.

Viegas, a former butcher and barbecue cook extraordinaire, had come armed with diagrams of a cow and a well-rehearsed argument about tri-tip, a triangular cut of meat found on the bottom edge of a top sirloin. This flavorful portion, which weighs in at 2½ to three pounds, perfect for a family barbecue, came into vogue in the late 1950s. Considered a stepchild of sirloin, tri-tip had previously been discarded or cut into chunks for stew, but when it was roasted whole, barbecue magic happened. It is now the choice of Santa Maria's home barbecue chefs, although, as I would learn later, something of a controversy surrounds the use of tri-tip.

What happened later is as they say, history! "Visitors and workers transferring from Vandenberg Air Force Base slowly spread the word. "People from the (San Joaquin) Valley were coming over here and buying it by the case and taking it back for barbecuing," Viegas recalls. To this day, Santa Maria Style Barbecue Draws Foodies From Around the World.

The triangle cut of meat was typically used for ground beef or sliced into steaks until the late 1950s. A quick trip to The Magazine for the National Barbecue Association goes into a side of detail, thanks to Laura Mohammad.

A Santa Maria, Calif., butcher remembers the beginnings of the tri tip. Larry Viegas is quoted on the Santa Maria Elks Lodge 1538 website about his observing a Safeway meat manager in the late 1950s save a small piece of meat that was about to be wasted, and experimenting with it. He found that the piece of meat – at 90 cents a pound as opposed to top sirloin at $1.90-$1.95 a pound – was surprisingly tender.

It would not find its renown until the manager, Bob Shutz, who had dubbed the piece of meat “tri tip,” opened his own meat market and began promoting it. The tri tip became a favorite in Santa Maria, and news spread throughout the state over the next two decades.

Using select pieces, Vickers trims the fat and cooks the tri tips at 225 F for two to two-and-a-half hours, making them rare to medium rare. He likes to use hardwood oak and a little hickory. Some pit masters will cook on medium-hot coals for 30-45 minutes, making the meat rare to medium-rare. “It’s like cooking a big, thick sirloin steak,” he says. The tri tip weighs three pounds. A trimmed tri tip runs about $3.77 a pound in California and is easily available there. “It’s hard to find outside of California,” says Vickers, although a good butcher can order it for you.

Okay, as we have often discovered "traditional" ingredients often get ground into a round-up of legends. Santa Maria Style Barbecue is not without its beefs. Some say Tri-Tip is not the authentic choice of beef and that boneless top sirloin is just as "barbecueable." Others say "Santa Maria Style" barbecue is usually used in reference to the seasoning and cooked whole on a rotissere. Most agree on the complimentary side dishes which are usually, garlic bread, Santa Maria Pinquito Beans, Santa Maria Salsa, and Santa Maria Macaroni and Cheese. Actually, Mrs. Tillery doesn't quite say it like that. Here are her words from The Military Wives Cookbook.

Traditionally, Santa Maria-style barbecue consists of top block sirloin, which is seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and cooked slowly over native red wood coals. The main course is served with tossed salad, beans, salsa, French bread toasted on the pit and then dipped in garlic butter, and sometimes macaroni and cheese...Although some purists may protest its authenticity, you may also use smaller tri-tip cut. Also known as a bottom cut, no one knew what to do with the triangular cut until a Santa Maria butcher used the now legendary seasoning and placed it on a rack in his rotisserie.

The Recipes

I found a source for Pinquito Beans online and also a Santa Maria Style Pinquito Beans recipe which the contributor notes that they are usually only available locally. While I was at it, I thought I would also leave a link for Santa Maria Style Salsa. (May is also National Salsa Month )

I'm going to include the Santa Maria Style Barbecue recipe from The Military Wives Cookbook as it is written in paragraph form in the cookbook. I am also going to scan the recipe for Santa Maria Style Macaroni and Cheese from the book. (click to enlarge) If you haven't already seen the details on how to Win a free copy of The Military Wives Cookbook, I left the link below along with a few additional resources. There's one link below, which offers a driving route in search of the best fund raising barbecue. Supposedly the best places to find a tasty Santa Maria Style Barbecue. If you're wondering what to make for dessert, pop on over to Coco Cooks. Courtney whipped up the Old Fashioned Banana Pudding recipe from the book AND, She's having a Military Wives Cookbook Give-Away too. Enjoy!

Santa Maria Style Barbecue
Combine 1 tablespoon of salt with 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground pepper and 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt. Traditionally, oak-wood logs are placed in a pit with moveable grate. However, backyard chefs can also use charcoal mixed with oak-wood chips. The fire should be hot but not blazing. Place your hands two or three inches over the grill. If you can count to ten before removing your hand then the fire is ready.

Tips for Success: Do not trim the fat before putting the meat on the grill. If cooking more than one cut and using steel rods, alternate fat and lean sides for an even distribution of the juices.

Otherwise, place meat on grill and adjust so meat is 2 to 3 inches from the coals. Sear the lean meat part of the meat over the fire for the first 5 to 10 minutes to seal in the juices. Move the meat to 6-8 inches from the coals. Then flip over to the fat side for another 35-45 minutes. When juice appears at the top of the meat, it is time to flip it again. Cook to the desired degree of doneness (130 degree for rare)

Finally, it is important to slice tri-tip against the grain, the long way, not across the triangle. It will not be uniform, but it will be more tender. This cut of meat is best when served immediately after cooking.

FYI: Not only is Janet @ Dying for Chocolate celebrating Cinco de Mayo today. It's National Hoagie Day, National Chocolate Custard Day, and the birthdate of "The Father of American Gastronomy" James Beard. <-this is my post for James Beard last year)

1. Free Military Wives Cookbook: 200 Years of Traditions, Recipes and Remembrances Give-Away
2.The Story of the Santa Maria Style Barbecue
3. The Magazine for the National Barbecue Association (PDF file)
4. Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip Barbecue Cooking (Jake's Barbecue Seasoning Rub)
5. Susie Q's Brand Santa Maria BBQ
6. Santa Maria Style Barbecue Restaurant Reviews
7. Fund Raising Suggested Route
8. History of the Hoagie (thanks to Foodimentary my new favorite tweeter:)


  1. I wish I could find tri-tip steak. I can never get it down here.

    What a fabulous giveaway! And it's delightfully PINK! :)

  2. I am going to look forward to cooking through this book.My post is up and I linked to both of your posts.

  3. interesting cookbook, louise! :D i met an american military major's wife once in a coffee shop and she was an interesting woman. this cookbook sounds great: i haven't seen 1 with stories yet. and barbecue? mmmmm! :D

  4. Hey that was an interesting read santa maria style barbecue recipes. You must have had a great experience. Thanks a lot for sharing your experience. I love reading cookbooks and often try out the simpler recipes.

  5. Thanks for dropping by all, there just may be another give-a-away coming up in September. We'll see...

    Hi Rumela,
    I'm delighted you liked the bbq recipes. I was wondering, I've been to a website/blog that has the name Rumela in the title. Is that you, I can't seem to find your blog.

    Stop by any time it's wonderful to "see" you:)


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none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise