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Also known as “Baja steak,” the petite tender is a boneless, cylindrical portion of a beef shoulder clod — the same area from which the top-blade or flat-iron steak is taken — and shaped like a mini-beef tenderloin. No wonder some butchers call it a Baja steak. Who wants to eat a clod, or a shoulder?

It cooks up like any steak, and each petite tender weighs about 10 ounces, so it would be safe to buy one tender per person served. The cross-section has that same type of honeycombed structure as a beef brisket, and if cooked properly, is as tender as a New York steak.

Petite tenders can be grilled or pan seared in a cast iron skillet and finished in a 400-degree oven. If pan searing, sear tenders on all sides, with 1 tablespoon each of butter and olive oil. Continue for several more minutes in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees. Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let them rest for about 10 minutes. Serve with new potatoes and green beans.

Fattier steaks, like porterhouse, T-bone, rib-eye, etc., pair better with full-bodied reds having higher tannin levels; for example, cabernet sauvignon. The petite tender, however, doesn’t have the fat content to coat the tongue and soften the effect of the tannins in heavier bodied reds.

Obviously, we need a red, but what varietal would work?

Malbec typically has lower in tannin levels than many other red wines which make it a fine pairing with leaner cuts of beef. Malbec could also pair well with filet mignon or whole beef tenderloin.

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Prior to Prohibition in the United States, malbec was a significant variety in California used mainly for blended bulk wine production. After Prohibition, the grape was a minor variety until it experienced a surge of interest as a component of "Meritage" Bordeaux-style blends in the mid-1990s. Between 1995 and 2003, plantings of malbec in California increased from 1,000 acres to more than 7,000 acres.

Pair this petite tender with Lucas and Lewellen’s 2014 Santa Barbara County Malbec. A double gold medal winner at the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, this malbec, grown on a high knoll overlooking the Santa Ynez River, comes from a prime location in their Valley View Vineyard. The wine has dense flavors and aromas, a creamy texture, silky tannins and flavors of raspberry jam, cherries, cacao, toasty vanilla and rubbed sage.

Or pair it with Rancho Sisquoc’s 2015 Santa Barbara County Malbec, a silver medal winner at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Cherry cola and sweet spicy fruit hit the senses up front. Fresh sage, ripe berries and round, mature oak flavors combine with a quick, clean finish that does not disappoint. Aged 21 months in French and Hungarian oak: 97% malbec, 3% petit sirah.


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John David Finley is a freelance writer and author of the cookbook "Sacred Meals from our Family Table," which features Santa Barbara County wines. He can be reached at