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Stir-Fried Tri-tip with Radicchio

Although tri-tip is often grilled, the meat’s leanness and stringy muscle structure make it a better candidate for stir-frying. When stir-fried, the meat can absorb the flavors of the other ingredients, rather than drying out from the heat of a grill. When you add the pieces of meat to the hot pan, be sure to distribute them evenly so that they brown nicely and cook uniformly. Cook the meat in batches, if necessary, to avoid overcrowding. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 tri-tip roast or top sirloin steak, about 1 lb.  
  • 1 large head radicchio, 8 to 9 oz.  
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil 
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter 
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped 
  • 1 small bunch watercress or upland cress, tough stems removed 
  • 1 tsp. white or red wine vinegar  

Directions:

Place the beef on a baking sheet and freeze, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, core the radicchio. Cut lengthwise into quarters, then cut each quarter crosswise into thin slivers. Set aside.

Cut the beef in half lengthwise, then cut each half across the grain into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Season the slices generously with salt and pepper.

In a large wok or fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil until very hot. Add half the beef, distributing it evenly, and cook without moving it for about 20 seconds. Continue to cook the beef, tossing and stirring it every 15 to 20 seconds, until browned but still slightly pink inside, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer to a platter. Repeat to cook the remaining beef in the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil and transfer to the platter.

Pour off most of the oil from the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter. When the butter has foamed, add the radicchio and shallot, and toss and stir until the radicchio is wilted and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Return the beef and any juices on the platter to the pan. Add the watercress and vinegar. Toss and stir for about 1 minute more to warm the beef. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

A note from the butcher: The importance of cross-grain cutting when working with meat that has stringy muscle fibers—like tri-tip, flank steak, and skirt steak—cannot be stressed enough. Use your sharpest knife to cut perpendicularly through the fibers. This will ensure that the meat is tender, not chewy, when cooked.
— Robert Fleming, Alexander’s Prime Meats and Catering, San Gabriel, CA

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The Cook and The Butcher, by Brigit Binns (Weldon Owen, Inc., 2011).