Friday, January 4, 2013

Lomo al Trapo with the usual New Year's trappings

Like so many years, my 2013 began with a package of salted pork. I set some ham hocks to boiling down in some water.
As that was going on, I worked on the collards. I just rip them down the stalk before I rinse all the greens off in a colander. 

After they're rinsed I take several leaves together and roll them up tight before slicing them up into pieces.

The ham hocks boiled down for almost 2 hours. I poured half the hot ham water into the collards and half into the black-eyed peas. I also tossed out the bones and chopped up the remaining chunks of ham hock and split it evenly between the peas and collards. Oh and I dropped a packet of Sauzon Goya into the peas. Into the collards I added 1 tablespoon brown sugar.

I was eager to try out my new grill rings, which my wife had given me. I found a "recipe" for onions where you simply set them on these rings and cook them on indirect heat for 45 minutes.

But the main even here was  salt-crusted beef tenderloin or Lomo al Trapo. It was a recipe I'd found in Steven Raichlen's Planet Barbecue! This is a Colombian technique for cooking what Raichlen describes as "one of the costliest and most prestigious cuts of meat, but paradoxically one of the least flavorful." So how much pressure is that? I will say that I went to the butcher's counter knowing that I was asking for something sort of special and pricey, but I really didn't know what I was getting into.
Ok, since we're among friends, I'll tell you that this cut was $19.99/lb. HOLY moly. So the pressure was on to make this worth while. I was cooking a cut I'd never cooked before and I had decided to use a peculiar technique at that.

 The idea is to wet an old napkin or cloth; coat it with salt and wrap the tenderloin inside. I was a nervous wreck. Pre-game I practiced with the salt.
 Meanwhile: The onions were doing their thing without much fuss.
Here's the guest of honor. 

Here's the wet, salted up napkin. After putting down 1/4 inch of salt I sprinkled dried oregano over the salt. This particular napkin is one of a set of napkins I bought once with my dear wife. It's a good-looking napkin, right? We use them nearly every time we cook out. I picked them out years ago when my wife and I were shopping for some household stuff. She was so bemused by the fact that I found some napkins that I was excited about that not only did we buy them, but each time we use them she tells our guests the story about how I picked out the napkins. The story never makes me feel all that manly.
Ok. Tossing expensive cuts of meat directly onto coals is totally manly. Let's talk more about that. I rolled the tenderloin up thusly and tied it off at the corners. My 6 year old daughter watched me roll everything up and let me know I was wasting salt. I didn't explain that salt is, like, $0.15/lb. Again over the salt I sprinkled some dried oregano.

 So that's it. Just drop it on the coals, which were cruising at 350f.
 After 12 minutes I flipped it.
I jabbed a thermometer into the tenderloin at this point to monitor what was going on.

This is where I tell you about what my parents gave me for Christmas. It's the iGrill. It's a Bluetooth wireless thermometer with an accompanying iPhone app. This was my first time playing with it. It's awesome. You just tell it what you're up to and it alerts you when you get the temperature you want. I guess it's not totally different from my Maverick setup, but it has a very cool interface and it's much more intuitive in terms of finding the temperatures for what you're cooking and setting up alerts. In this case I was looking to do some medium rare beef.

Having reached 130f on the inside I pulled this curious project from the fire. Raichlen suggests you let it rest for 2 minutes. That was funny to me as it took me more than a few minutes to figure out how the hell I was going to crack into this thing.

My wife remembered the heat-resistant gloves I had for pulling pork. They were very useful in unwrapping the meat.

So for as nervous as I was, it all turned out really well. The recipe made it sound like the tenderloin would have this lovely crust around it after you knocked all the salt off. I had it in my mind that there would be 1/4 inch of salt stuck to the tenderloin. You'd tap it with tongs and it would all fall away leaving this lovely charred beef with tender insides. Well it wasn't exactly that. The recipe does tell you that you have to brush away the excess salt with a basting brush, which I did. So it was all very tasty. It simply didn't look how I expected it to. The oregano imparted a surprisingly pleasant taste. 

This was a fun project and the kids thought it was interesting. But the consensus was that the bone-in ribeye steak that I'd cooked on New Year's Eve was superior. All the same it was a nice kick-off dinner for 2013.

1 comment:

  1. I am glad I tried this once too, but I like the beef tenderloins that I have reverse seared better and without the fuss of the towel and salt.