Cowboy Classic Dinner, New Mexico Red Chile and Coffee Crust Tri-Tip from 'Meat and Potatoes'

After growing up on his family farm in New Mexico, Rahm Fama conquered the table. In Meat and Potatoes, Simple Recipes that Sizzle and Sear (Clarkson Potter, July 2014), Southwest is obviously an influence that shows in his cooking. He also gives us advice on how to select a good cut of meat, cook it, slice it, serve it...and a variety of side dishes that will be great on their own.

His grandmother's cooking permeates this story.

Now grab your cast iron skillet and give a shot to 1 of the 52 recipes from 'Meat and Potatoes'. It will make you hungry for more of the book.

New Mexico Red Chile and Coffee Crust Tri-Tip with Creamy Corn-Blue Polenta and Caramelized Cipollini Onions


Tri-tip is often overlooked, but it’s flavorful and inexpensive, and the favorite cut for this cowboy classic. Traditionally this steak would be cooked in a cast-iron skillet over an open campfire under the stars. For the spice mix, I prefer the New Mexico red chile powder for its intense heat and smoky flavor, but use one you like. It’s important to cook the meat to medium—130°F, no more, no less—to rest to allow the juices to be reabsorbed back into the meat. Recalling the dishes of my youth that were seasoned with “corn smut,” a mushroom that grows on corn, I use blue cheese in polenta to give it an authentic Mexican kick. The cipollini onions are mild-tasting, easy, and showy.

They’re fine made a day ahead and reheated before serving. Serve the onions on top of the polenta
with the meat arranged on top.

New Mexico Red Chile & Coffee Crust Tri-Tip
 ½ cup New Mexico red chile powder
 ½ cup finely ground coffee
 ¼ cup brown sugar
 1 tablespoon salt
 ½ teaspoon black pepper
 3 pounds tri-tip roast
 1 tablespoon olive oil
 2 tablespoons unsalted butter


1. Toss together the chile powder, coffee, sugar, salt, and pepper.

2. Pat the meat dry. Massage the mixture into the meat. Put in a large resealable plastic bag and
allow it to come to room temperature.

3. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Heat the oil with the butter in a cast-iron skillet or a large ovenproof frying pan set over high heat. When it shimmers, sear the meat well, 5 minutes per side. (It will look as though it’s burned, but that’s from the coffee.) Put the skillet in the oven to finish cooking the meat, 3 to 5 minutes.

  1. It should register 130°F on an instant-read thermometer.

  2. Remove and set on a rack over a platter or baking sheet and let rest for 15 to 30 minutes. Then carve against the grain.

Creamy Corn–Blue Cheese Polenta

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 small white onion, chopped

  • 6 cups whole milk

  • 1 13-ounce package instant polenta

  • 4 ounces blue cheese

  • 2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen, thawed

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • ¼ cup diced scallions, both white and green parts, for garnish 

  1. Melt the butter in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onion for 8 to 10 minutes, until light brown.

  2. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the milk. Bring to a simmer and gradually add the polenta in a slow, steady stream, stirring constantly. Continue cooking and stirring the polenta for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it reaches the texture of a thick porridge.

  3. Fold in the blue cheese and corn. Season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with the scallions. 

Caramelized Cipollini Onions

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • 18 to 24 pearl onions (about 8½ pounds), peeled

  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary

  • 2 cups chicken stock

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

  1. In a cast-iron skillet set over medium heat, melt the butter.

  2. Sauté the onions and rosemary for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions become a rich caramel-brown. Add enough stock to cover the onions and the rosemary, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the rosemary sprig.

  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the onions with their sauce over the polenta to serve. 

Meatandpotatoes cover

(* Reproduced with permission from Meat and Potatoes, Simple Recipes that Sizzle and Sear by Rahm Fama in collaboration with Beth Dooley-published by Clarkson Potter,July 2014- Photography by Jennifer May...Thanks to Blogging for Books for Review Copy)

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