When most of my girlfriends take mini-breaks with friends they go to Vegas or Tahoe or Italy. Not me. I go to the cabin in the middle of the boonies, where we eat, drink, chat, read and generally avoid any kind of labor.
This last trip, everyone had a different food thing going on. One friend was a temporary vegan, one was a permanent vegetarian, another a die-hard carnivore but currently not eating cheese, and me—well I’ll eat anything that doesn’t move faster than me.
Negotiating the menu was a little like brokering a Middle East peace plan. The one thing all of us could agree on was coffee. Or at least the three of us who drink coffee; the fourth is a tea person. How we fix our coffee is another story.
The coffee at the cabin is like no other. It is magical. I’m not sure if this is because it’s made in a percolator that takes about 30 minutes to complete the job or because most mornings I savor that first cup on the porch looking up the other side of the canyon where a brilliant array of trees meet the blue, blue sky.
I typically grind the coffee at the last minute before we leave and because it’s for a percolator I use a course grind. I always grind a lot out of fear of running out. Instead I always come home with a little leftover.
This last trip was no exception. It’s too coarse for my home coffee maker so I usually freeze it and then use it as a marinade for grilling—a trick I learned from my friend Mike Dashe of Dashe Cellars.
He taught me to use coffee as an ingredient for grilled meats. The coffee imparts a smoky, rich flavor and I’ve used it in all kinds of recipes, from red wine marinades to spicy rubs.
I’ve found this trick comes in handy for shortcut recipes like the one below. I mix store-bought barbecue sauce (Stubbs Original), red wine and ground coffee beans. This is especially great for trips to the cabin because I can combine these ingredients in a plastic bag, add a tri-tip and then toss into the cooler—all in a few minutes time. And, by the time I grill the tri tip a day or two later it’s soaked up all kinds of good flavor.
Barbecued Tri Tip
2-lb tri-tip steak
1 cup high-quality barbecue sauce
1/4 cup red wine
1 Tbsp coarse-ground coffee
Put the tri tip in a self-sealing bag and add the barbecue sauce, wine and coffee. Refrigerate overnight.
Preheat a gas grill to medium-high heat. Remove the tri tip from the refrigerator.
Pat the tri tip dry and put on the grill. Cook, covered, 6 minutes per side for medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let sit for 10 minutes. Slice against the grain using a sharp knife. Arrange on a plate and sprinkle with the sea salt. Serve.
What to drink: Zinfandel. Dashe Cellars Dry Creek Valley ($24) is a unique zin, because while it is fruity it’s also balanced and refined. It’s bold enough for a robust grilled tri tip and delicate enough for grilled vegetables and other summer side dishes.