Kroger these days is selling tri tip roasts in the 2 pound range. Trader Joes often has meat sales that involve tri tip steaks.

These we’ve added to the sous vide pot. The tri tip steak was an impulse buy because they were inexpensive, and the roast a somewhat later choice, when wanting a couple pounds of meat to last the week.

Tri tip steak at 4.5 hours was a little soft.

We cooked the steaks about 4.5 hours at 131 degrees. I didn’t mind the texture, but my daughter thought it was “granny food”. When looking about information for the roast, I saw times as short as an hour and as long as 52 hours. Obviously what you like in meat counts. One point of view, worth noting is:

Tri-Tip Roast is a tender cut of beef, mostly comprised of protein and fat. As a result, is best cooked by bringing it up to your desired temperature, but not letting it cook for an extended period of time.

Consequently, I cooked the roast about 2.5 hours. And it was just about perfect. There was no real need to go further with this roast.

Tri Tip roast at 2.5 hours and 131 degrees was just about ideal.

Both meats were dry spiced and cooked at 131 degrees. But if I were to do the steaks again, I’d keep them cooking no more than 2.5-3 hours.

The local supermarkets, perhaps encouraged by Nam Dae Mun, are now offering a more interesting selection of meats.

Buffalo sirloin.

I was curious about bison. Ted’s serves it, as did the now closed Ruby Tuesday. It tends to be tastier than beef, but in the portions shown, a bit expensive. 8 ounces of buffalo steak cost me about $6.80, close to 14 dollars a pound.

I prepped the steak in a traditional way, dry spicing before sealing in a pint bag. This went into the sous-vide pot for four and a half hours at 131 F. The result?

This was the most tender steak I’ve ever prepped by this method. Utterly delicious.

This is a topic, I’ll note, covered nicely on the Sous Vide Supreme blog, in a recipe supplied by Richard Blais, but my take on lamb as steaks is that you can treat them pretty much the way you would treat beef steak. This lamb was something of an impulse buy. I’m short of fresh herbs, so I made do with the powdered stuff I usually use on steaks these days.

I sealed the meat in a Food Saver bag. This isn’t necessary, a good Ziploc will do.

The steak was cooked at 130 for two hours, then 131 the remaining three. Note that with my setup (a PID controller), I have a peak temperature initially 2-3 degrees higher than my nominal setting. This steak peaked at 132 F. Afterwards it was spiced (kosher salt, cracked black pepper, garlic, onion powder, a little cracked red pepper)

then finished on the stove, 45 seconds a side at a high heat. With a red wine reduction, the final result looked something like this.

As a side, I tried a steamable edamame I found at the local grocer.

This product tasted better than it looked coming out of the microwave. Be warned.

The surgery was a success, and the boot is gone. There are lingering pains here and there, but I can fit into a shoe for the first time in months, as opposed to wearing slippers. I can be decent company for someone going out. That’s definitely a plus. So I went out, tried Kampai, a steak, seafood, and tapas joint, in Lawrenceville, located where the On the Border used to be. Nice place, I liked it. Photos and a review shortly.

My boonie peppers are alive but not doing well. Some may have died. I need some warmer weather, about 80 during the day and better than 50 at night to be sure. Till then I water them and keep my fingers crossed.

The New York Times has an interesting article on the effects the lack of slaughterhouses have on the locavore movement. Higher slaughterhouse standards are causing slaughterhouses to close. Therefore, farmers trying to supply regional meat are having to book time for slaughter before animals are being born.

Finally a pic. I got a new scale – the Ozeri – that could weigh to the gram. The spice mill I finally devoted to sichuan pepper left my daughter bereft. Before, the mill had black pepper and she was enjoying being able to grind her own. I bought another. I’ll make sure that one stays pepper oriented.

Ozeri scale versus the one we've had for 25 years.

The high ranking on Urban Spoon, the fine review in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, none of this adequately encompasses the way Benny’s Bar and Grill handles food and prepares meals.  The kind of talk you can hear on the Food Channel, about how food can be “rich with flavor”, comes into sparkling clarity when you try one of Mike “Benny” Miller’s dishes. So don’t let the tough driving conditions, the menu on the outside, the rave reviews drive you away.

The restaurant is located at the site of the old Mellow Mushroom just south of Golden Corral, on Highway 78. Benny’s is a little north of the Highway 78 – Killian Hills intersection, and for those a little west of this restaurant, approaching it by heading down Killian Hills and north on 78 might save you some grief. There is some parking in front of the restaurant, but a lot more parking in the back of the building, down a ramp to the left.

Once inside, it doesn’t seem as cramped as the old Mellow Mushroom was. There is much better use of space and, it seems, a lot more places to sit and eat. The layout is graceful, but unpretentious. There are big screen TVs on the walls, a bit of bar seating, elegant tables and on the tables, no salt or pepper. I didn’t notice the lack of spices, Mike Miller pointed it out. And to be honest, I didn’t need it.

A description of the food might be a fusion between the kind of food California has made famous (more accurately, modern American cuisine) and Cajun/Creole cooking.  If that’s too high falutin’, think of it as guys in a kitchen with Louisiana roots trying to make really good food while incorporating neat tricks friends from elsewhere have taught them. The results are a lot of original dishes, entirely the opposite of the chain experience.

On to the food:

The soup of the day was a gumbo, and gumbo can be a make or break experience in a restaurant with aspirations to deliver Louisiana favorites. The bowl was appealing when it arrived, with nice chunks of sausage floating in a rich broth. It looked great, smelled good, and it was delicious. It had a lot of flavor, and it managed it with just a tiny bit of heat, enough to let you know it was there.

I also had the boudin egg rolls, perhaps because a lot of restaurants that claim Cajun roots can’t even spell boudin. They were good, bits of sausage and rice in the egg roll. The rolls looked to be a bit unwrapped, and there was cheese, I think, melted into the portion of unwrapped roll.

I didn’t order an entree until I had eaten the appetizer and the soup and the jerk pork tenderloin was too much to resist at that point. And before I trip over superlatives describing how good it was, let’s just say it was exceptionally good.

The beer selection here is really well thought out, with a small number of beers that encompass a wide range of tastes. If you like light beer, you can get that. If you want an extra stout, you can get that too. If you’re like me and want something more like a brown ale or Anchor Steam, they have those as well.

For those wondering why I haven’t described the po boys or the desserts, they are very well covered by the AJC review, and I really want my wife, who has made me drive 90 miles for a good po boy in the past, to have her say first.

By the time I was into the pork tenderloin, Mike Miller came out, and we spoke for a bit. It’s impressive, his grasp of his craft. Prices in Benny’s Bar and Grill are also equally impressive. Entrees run 10 to 14 dollars, their famous po boys run about 9 dollars. You should be able to come here, have a salad and an entree, and beat the prices of every mid priced Snellville steakhouse, or even Ruby Tuesday’s. The desserts, which the AJC raved about, are also competitively priced with any low to mid priced chain.

Verdict: Exceptional food, exceptional value. This is original food, not cookie cutter stuff. The setting is appealing without being pretentious.  Despite the informality, this is the kind of restaurant that would be considered an asset in any city I’ve eaten in, from Seoul, Korea and San Francisco in the east, to Manhattan, Philadelphia, and Boston in the west.

Benny’s Bar and Grill
3902 Highway 78
Snellville, GA
(678)-209-0209

Benny's Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Update 10/27/2009: Benny’s has a letter posted on the front door saying it is temporarily closed.

I was asked to make something fast for my daughter and myself, and I had a hankering for something a little different. I can pan sear steak with the best of them but I wanted something fast and simple. My daughter suggested tacos, but I was thinking what I would see in a plate of fajitas, and it is essentially marinated steak, bell pepper strips and onions. So, I went to the local carniceria and found a beautiful red pepper and some nice thinly sliced steak (0.7 lb), so I also bought the chicken my wife wanted and some flour tortillas and headed home.

We prepared a fajita style marinade as so:

Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced.
salt to taste
1 teaspoon red pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
add water till the steak was covered.

The steak and marinade were placed in a bowl, wrapped in plastic and allowed to sit in the refrigerator.

In the meantime we cut up 1 green and 1 red pepper and 1/2 yellow onion and 1/2 red onion. We placed the veggies in a bowl for the time being.

The longer you marinate, the more flavor you’ll get. Some people add cumin to the marinade, others add cilantro, and still others add jalapeno pepper. Some even add tequila! Still others marinate the peppers with the steak.  In Keith Law’s blog, he uses a dry rub for his fajitas. This is a place where some inventiveness will help you. Look at some other recipes for fajita marinades to get ideas.

After the steak was marinated enough (the longer the better for sure, and overnight is probably best. We did it an hour. We were hungry), we took it out of the fridge and cut it into thin strips. This aids in the cooking. For that matter, if you cut the steak before marinating, it will marinate faster (increased surface area).

If you want the steak to have a more grilled appearance, you’ll need to use a pan at a high heat and probably start cooking the steak first. As this can leave a kitchen absolutely full of smoke, I chickened out and just added a tbsp of oil at medium-high heat, let the pan warm up and tossed in everything – steak, onions, peppers – at once. I cooked until the steak was done, no hint of red and with the vegetables soft and moist. I had my daughter try the meat and when we were satisfied, we removed the food from the skillet, drained the juices, poured it all into a bowl. We provided a spoon and flour tortillas and allowed anyone to have at it.

It looked great, and would have been great over a bed of rice, too.

The Snellville edition of Texas Roadhouse is on Dogwood Road, close to the intersection of Scenic Highway (124) and Dogwood. The restaurant is in the same large mall area as Men’s Wearhouse and O’ Charley’s, but on the Dogwood side of things. The steakhouse is actually much easier to get to down Dogwood, as that part of Scenic Highway gets a little crowded with traffic. From Ronald Reagan you could exit Web Ginn Road, head towards Brookwood High School, and then hang a left on Dogwood to get to Texas Roadhouse.

As compared to Outback Steakhouse, which we reviewed recently, the atmosphere here is more informal. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Peanuts are served in small metal buckets, all you can eat. There were times when I had a hungry impatient daughter.  Giving her some peanuts kept her hands busy, kept her from complaining until she received her meal.

Occasionally the waitstaff will dance. I’m not sure what the rhyme or reason is, but it’s entertaining when it happens. Items on the menu, for what it’s worth, go by common names here, as opposed to something made up.  You can order a choice sirloin without any feeling of guilt. Steaks are good, competitive in price in my memory and served with good sides. My wife has had good luck with chicken, or ribs, or some combination of the two. Among the appetizers I’ve tried are the buffalo wings and the rattlesnake bites (stuffed jalapenos), both good. In terms of salad dressings, my wife favors the ranch dressing and I’ve had good luck with the italian. My daughter eats all kinds of things here, though I think lately she’s been getting chicken tenders. Service, in my experience, has been good to very good here. Waitstaff will come by, refill drinks, ask how you are doing, and make food suggestions if you need them.

If I haven’t said, this is a popular place and can get crowded for dinner. It might be worthwhile to choose times carefully if you want to just stick your head in and eat.  But in summary, this is a good steakhouse, worth going to, a bit more informal than Outback. I recommend this steakhouse highly.

Texas Roadhouse
1969 Dogwood Road
Snellville, GA 30078
(770) 985-1450

Texas Roadhouse on Urbanspoon