So when you’re gone most of the day, you need something that you can stick in the oven on a really low heat, or perhaps in the crock pot, if that’s your weapon of choice. A tri-tip roast is your answer. It’s an inexpensive cut that I’ve found works beautifully with Cuban flavors. It can stand to be braised for a good while. Because there are only two per cow, they may not be behind your butcher’s window – so just ask. Today, the roast was cooked along with a combination of peppers, onions and carrot, which was later pureed and turned into a lovely sauce that pulled the whole dish together. Served with a sunchoke and cassava mash and a few fried plantains, this is a sturdy meal for a chilly night. Familiar, but with a little bit of newness to keep your interest piqued. Just like a first date.
Cuban Tri-tip, Sunchoke and Cassava Mash with Fried Plantains, serves 4
3 pounds tri-tip
1 jalapeno (all of it, seeds and everything) stem cut off and cut in quarters
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 very large carrot, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
Zest from 1 orange
2 T comino (cumin)
Large handful fresh oregano, leaves picked, stems discarded
6 c beef stock (not canned or box, if you don’t have homemade, use water)
Salt, pepper, vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Seriously. Generously season the tri-tip with the salt and pepper. In a heavy dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the roast and sear on all sides. Remove to a plate. Add peppers, onions, carrot and garlic. Soften for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Place the roast on top of the vegetables and tip in any juices that accumulated on the plate. Add in the zest, cumin, oregano and stock, bring to a boil, cover and place in the oven. Turn off the oven and reset the temperature to 275 degrees. Ignore for at least four hours, but if you have six that’s fine.
Remove the roast to a cutting board. In a food processor or blender, add the vegetables from the pot along with 1 to 2 ladlefuls of the cooking liquor (that the juice left over from cooking the meat, y’all) and puree. That’s your gravy. Mmm. Gravy.
Sunchoke and Cassava Mash
1 cassava root, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled and chopped
1/2 pound sunchokes, quartered
1 to 1 1/2 c Snowville Creamery Ooh, Lah Lah (or milk or cream)
2 T butter
In a pan, combine the cassava and sunchokes, cover with water and season generously with salt. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cassava is easily pierced with a fork. Drain. Return to the pan with the Ooh, Lah Lah and the butter. Mash. Adjust seasoning to taste.
For the fried plantains
Slice a plantain into rounds on the diagonal, each about 1/2 inch thick. In a pan of vegetable oil that is about 300 degrees, fry in batches, taking care that the rounds don’t stick to the pan or each other. Remove to a paper towel lined plate when light golden brown. On a flat board, take a flat bottomed glass and smash each fried plantain piece until thin, about 1/8 of an inch. Cherub got to do this part. She loved watching each piece flatten out under the glass she used to “smush” them. Return the pieces in batches to the oil and fry until a rich golden brown. Place in a paper bag, add salt and pepper and shake to season.
Plate as shown above. Garnish with fresh coriander, if you have it.
Playlist included Amor Verdadero, by Afro-Cuban All Stars.