This Seared Tri-Tip with Frisée Salad and Sherry Vinaigrette is bright, fresh and perfect for lunch or a light dinner. Crisp, peppery frisée gets rounded out with beautiful radicchio, juicy Belgian endive, crispy pancetta and shaved pecorino Romano. The steak is butter-basted in a hot pan for extra flavour and the most incredible crust. Everything gets piled high and tossed in a delicious sherry vinaigrette that couldn’t be easier to make.
What You Need For This Seared Tri-Tip with Frisée Salad
- Pancetta: The party gets started by rendering small pieces of pancetta in a hot pan. They serve as little, meaty croutons on the salad and you can use the rendered fat to sear the tri-tip. You can omit the pancetta to keep this recipe pork-free. Instead, use a small amount of avocado oil to cook the steaks.
- Tri-Tip Steak: I used tri-tip that I sliced into individual steaks because it was on special at my local butcher. It may not be the most tender cut, but it has an incredible, delicious and beefy flavour that I absolutely love.
Truth be told, you can use just about any cut of steak your heart desires for this recipe. As long as the steak is cut to around 1.25″ thick, the technique, temperatures and cooking times should be very similar.
- Frisée Lettuce: Also known as curly endive, this is a beautiful variety of bitter green that is commonly used in salads and other dishes. It has a distinctive, curly shape with spiky leaves and a slightly bitter flavour that helps cut through the fatty, richness of the seared tri-tip. The dark green tops are slightly more bitter than the light green bottoms, but both parts are perfectly edible.
Frisée tends to be quite sandy when you purchase it from the store so be sure to triple rinse it and dry it very well. For best results, use a salad spinner.
- Radicchio: For a pop of colour and flavour, I like to add some roughly chopped radicchio to the salad. Like the frisée, it has a bitter flavour, but I think it goes very well.
- Belgian Endive: This one is less bitter, more juicy, slightly sweet, with a delicious, crisp texture.
- Sherry Vinaigrette: Skip the store-bought stuff and try making your own homemade vinaigrette. It’s super easy, allows you to control the quality of ingredients and sodium levels. This is a fancy salad, so I recommend using a fancy olive oil and vinegar. If you can find a good-quality sherry vinegar, this is an ideal time to use it. If not, you can substitute champagne vinegar, apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar. Each one will add its own unique flavour profile.
What is Tri-Tip?
Tri-tip steak is a cut of beef that comes from the bottom sirloin section of the cow. It is a triangular-shaped cut of meat that has a moderate amount of marbling, making it flavourful and tender. Tri-tip steak is also relatively lean, making it a nice option for those who aren’t fans of fattier cuts like ribeye.
It’s also much more affordable than select cuts, like ribeye, striploin or tenderloin, making it a great option for more casual lunches or dinners.
Tri-tip is not very popular in Toronto, where I live. In fact, this is probably the first time I’ve ever seen it displayed without having to put in a special order. It’s much more common in the western United States, particularly in California and the Santa Maria Valley.
Best Ways to Cook Tri-Tip?
Tri-tip is a versatile steak and can be seasoned and cooked in a variety of ways. Pan-searing it and finishing with a butter baste is probably not as common of a technique, but it is absolutely worth trying. It’s actually a much more forgiving steak to cook than something like a striploin because of the amount of intramuscular marbling that keeps it juicy.
More popular methods include marinating tri-tip whole in a mixture of spices and herbs, grilling it over high heat, or slow-roasting it in the oven. It is also a popular choice for smoking and barbecue, as the combination of the meat’s natural flavour and the smoke produces a rich and juicy steak that is hard to beat.
Whether you’re grilling, roasting, or smoking, tri-tip steak is a delicious, flavourful, underrated and affordable cut of beef.
What is Butter Basting?
Butter basting is a simple yet effective cooking technique that infuses steaks with rich, buttery flavour and keeps them juicy and tender. The process involves continuously spooning melted butter over steaks as they cook in a pan, helping to flavour the meat and prevent it from drying out.
Choose the Right Pan for the Job
Choosing the correct pan to sear steaks is crucial. Avoid all types of non-stick pans for this recipe as the coating will start to break down at high temperatures.
Use something that is high-heat safe and has a heavy bottom. Cast-iron and carbon-steel are the best choices because they are non-toxic, virtually non-stick, safe to use upwards of 1200˚F and retain an even heat.
I personally love this carbon-steel skillet because it has a long handle that tends to stay more cool to the touch, making it perfect for butter basting. Carbon-steel is also more heat responsive than cast-iron, making it a slightly better choice for butter basting steaks because it gives you more control over the temperature so that you don’t burn the butter.
Stainless-steel would be my third pick for seared tri-tip only because I find that the heat retention is not as good as cast-iron and carbon-steel.
Seared Tri-Tip with Frisée Salad and Sherry Vinaigrette
For the Sherry Vinaigrette:
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8 cup sherry vinegar substitute red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, apple cider vinegar
- ½ small shallot finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic finely grated
- 2 teaspoons honey plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
For the Steak and Salad:
- 4 ounces pancetta cubed
- 1.25 pounds tri-tip steak s, sliced 1.25” thick, substitute your favourite steak or pork chop
- Flakey sea salt such as Maldon, substitute kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cloves garlic unpeeled & lightly smashed
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme substitute rosemary
- 1 small head frisée lettuce AKA curly endive, stem trimmed and leaves rinsed
- 1 medium head radicchio roughly chopped
- 1 Belgian endive separated into large leaves
- 2 ounces shaved pecorino Romano cheese substitute Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano
For the Sherry Vinaigrette
- In a mason jar, combine the olive oil, vinegar, shallot, garlic, honey, mustard, salt and pepper. Seal with a lid and shake vigorously until emulsified, around 15 seconds. Taste the vinaigrette for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper as desired. Cover and refrigerate up to 5 days.
For the Steak and Salad:
- Remove the steak(s) from the fridge and let sit at room temperature 30 minutes before cooking. Pat the steak(s) very dry with paper towel and generously season both sides with sea salt. Set aside.
- Add the pancetta to a large, dry, carbon-steel or cast-iron skillet. Place the pan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is crispy, around 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb excess grease. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of rendered fat in the pan.
- If the steaks have released surface moisture, pat them dry with paper towel and carefully transfer them to the hot skillet. Cook, undisturbed, over medium-high heat until a deep crust has formed, around 4 minutes. Flip the steak(s) and push it to the top edge of the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter, garlic and thyme to the bottom half of the skillet. Carefully tilt the pan towards you so that the melted butter pools and use a large spoon to continuously baste the steak(s) until the thickest part reaches 130F for a medium-rare centre or 145F for medium.
- Once the steaks are cooked to your preferred doneness, transfer them to a sheet pan lined with a wire rack and let them rest at least 8 minutes before slicing against the grain into thin pieces.
- On a large serving platter, arrange the frisée, radicchio and Belgian endive. Top with the pancetta and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Arrange the sliced steak overtop and garnish with shaved pecorino Romano. Serve immediately.