Idaho Tri-Tip & Fanned Potato

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

April 5, 2014

Recipes From the RanchMeat and potatoes is a recurring theme in a ranch kitchen. When you live in Idaho, potatoes are the official state food. With so many ranches, beef is a close second.

Tri-tip is a west-coast cut. When this buckaroo lived in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, few butchers knew the cut. Even if they did, they cut different styles from that portion of beef so it was never available. Tri-tip is a favorite for those who smoke and barbeque, but it is also a quick steak.

My husband often works contract out of state and my kids are grown and flown. At times it’s just me and the dogs. Left to my own devices, I’d just write and poke about the pond all day, neglecting kitchen duties. But I’m not a fan of canned or boxed meals so I try to fix things that fit my tastes and my writer’s life.

That’s one reason why I like to bake potatoes. In the oven it takes about one hour. That means I can fix the potato then forget about it and write some more before prepping the rest of the meal.

Another reason I like baking potatoes is that I can prepare one at a time for my single meals, but easily add to the count when I have a full house. Same with tri-tip steak. I can slice up a tri-tip roast into writer-buckaroo sizes or prepare the roast for more guests. Versatility is desirable in the ranch kitchen.

This recipe serves up well with a side of asparagus because it’s spring and asparagus is tender and fresh at the stores. My husband grew up in northern Nevada and picked asparagus along the ditch banks. It’s still one of his favorite vegetables, but he missed out on this one!

Fanned Potato

  • 1 medium Idaho
  • 1 generous pat of butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • sprinkle of smoked paprika
  • sprinkle of sea salt
  • sprinkle of shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Chop garlic and melt butter (easy to do in 20 seconds in the microwave or a few minutes in a frying pan). Scrub the skin of the potato and set on a cutting board between two wooden spoons. Cut the potato as if you were slicing it, but stop when the knife hits the wooden spoons. This allows the potato to stay intact but  “fanned.” Place fanned potato on a piece of tin-foil (enough to securely wrap the potato). Drizzle the garlic butter between slices and sprinkle with salt and paprika. Seal the foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour. Remove, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.


Super easy–during the last 15 minutes of the potato baking, heat garlic butter in a pan (cast iron or steel is ideal). When I chop the garlic for the potato, I chop two more cloves and reserve for the steak. If you really like garlic (as I do, chop even more and roast it with the asparagus in the oven that last  15 minutes of baking the fanned potato). Once the garlic butter melts, slather both sides of the steak in it. Fry each side about 6-8 minutes (depending upon your preference). Salt and pepper with freshly hammered (cracked) black pepper.

Every kitchen buckaroo needs a hammer for cracking pepper!

Serve and eat and then go write some more.

Cowboy Tri-Tip & Fanned Potato (3) Cowboy Tri-Tip & Fanned Potato



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  1. Norah

    Sounds delicious!

    • Charli Mills

      Anything with garlic and butter is delicious–it’s how I ate escargot once! 🙂

  2. sylvestermouse

    How awesome is that! I have never eaten a fanned potato and potatoes are my own personal favorite food!

    • Charli Mills

      Once I learned the wooden spoon trick, it became very easy! I’m sure you could come up with variations, too!

  3. Claudia Meydrech

    Thank you for the delicious recipe. We have good potatoes that grow in the black dirt region around here but aren’t known for them like Idaho:-)

    • Charli Mills

      I think potatoes grow well most places! But of course, Idaho is famous.

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