The best bison Frank has ever eaten

Apologies to my many, many fans for leaving you without a blog update for so long.  The truth is I was on vacation, and I thought that if I blogged about where I was and what I was doing someone might break into my house and steal my stuff.  Instead, someone broke in and left us a plant.  I have no clue where the plant came from, but those are my kinds of burglars.

Anyway, we just finished going on a trip to Canada’s Wild West, and so of course one of my primary travel goals was to cook something weird and semi-local.  I hadn’t cooked any strange meat for a while, so I made my sister drive me to Rocky Mountain Game Meats to convince the guy who was more administrator than butcher to hunt me down some game from the depths of their giant freezer.

I considered asking him for this…


…because I didn’t even know what a muskox was before I saw it as an offering on their website and that’s weird eating for sure, which of course is a good thing when it comes to my blog, but I ended up going with this…


I was slightly disappointed in myself for going with bison, because who hasn’t had a bison burger (I’m guessing the large majority of humans on the planet, actually) but when I saw that they offered it as Osso Bucco steaks (and only $40 total for 8!), I thought the recipe was appropriately dangerous and could be tried with lamb for anyone reading this who couldn’t get their paws on any bison.

Here’s my picture of two of the frozen steaks.  It was initially kind of boring so I made it into steaks that might be in a Tarantino movie:

But back to bison and Alberta, which was where I was.  Did you know that North America was once covered in bison?  There were about 75 million of them here apparently, and Alberta has an especially cool tribute to them and the First Nations people in their Unesco heritage site, “Head-smashed-in Buffalo Jump.”  You may think that that name seems cruel and that the practice helped to wipe out the buffalo, but no, like with pretty much everything else, First Nations people only took what they needed (by strategically chasing a few bisons off a cliff, for example) until the late 1800s when the whiteys came and gorged, making a quick buck on the hides.  Sometimes the Eurotrash just shot the poor old bisons for sport and let them rot without using anything from them.  It was said that a person could walk from Texas to North Dakota on bison bones without ever touching the ground.  Jerks.

In the early 1900s, some ranchers began collecting the few bisons who were left, protecting and breeding them, and it was their ranching grandkids who supplied my meat.  There are only about 250,000 bison living in North America now, and now they’re mostly farmed for their meat, which is lower in fat and cholesterol than beef, pork, or chicken.  And if you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know how this recipe turned out based on my previous sentence (insert ominous music here).

Since I’m getting sick of hearing myself talk, without further ado I’ll pass along Bryan McCaw’s Osso Bucco recipe.

Bison Osso Bucco (serves 8)

  • 8 bison steaks for Osso Bucco (or 4 whole lamb shanks)
  • 2Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2Tbsp oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2C diced onion
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2C fruity red wine
  • 28oz can Italian plum tomatoes
  • 2Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 large sprig of rosemary
  • 2Tbsp fresh oregano
  • 2C beef stock
Directions:  Preheat to 350.
1.  Heat the oil and butter in a heavy skillet.  Brown the meat on all sides.  Remove to plate and season with salt and pepper.
2.  Add the onion, carrot and garlic to the pan.  Saute the veggies until soft and browned.  Add the wine, bringing to boiling and reduce to a glaze.  Add the tomatoes and herbs and bring to boiling again.
3.  Add the stock to the hot tomato mixture and bring to boiling.  Remove from heat and add the meat (I had to move everything to a roasting pan to have room).  Make sure the meatiest bits are immersed in liquid.  Cover and place in oven.  Bake 2 hours or until tender when pierced with fork.
4.  When the meat is tender, remove from the pot and keep warm.  Degrease pan juices if necessary.  Remove any large herb sprigs.  Puree some pan liquids and whisk in a tablespoon of butter and heat to a glossy sheen (I couldn’t puree because my sis doesn’t have a food processor at her house, poor soul).  Add the warm meat.
5.  Plate with vegetables and sauce.

Results:  Meh.  I had tasted the recipe before using lamb and it was fall off the bone fantastic, but with bison it was chewy.  I probably should have marinated it for ages and then cooked it for even longer than the recipe called for to tenderize it – note foreshadow from before where I hinted that healthy meat needs lots of help softening up (see kangaroo, alligator and ostrich posts).  My sister ate it though, which says a LOT, and all of her in-laws said it was good too, and they have no real reason to kiss my behind.  Maybe I’m becoming the picky one.  My bro-in-law, Frank, said it was the best bison he had ever eaten.  Of course, it was also the first bison he had ever…  You had probably guessed that after you read the title though, right?

Rating:  1 Yum for the bison, but do try the Osso Bucco recipe with lamb, because it’s extra delicious.

Interesting fact:  The name bison is to buffalo as First Nations is to Indian, in a way.  The latter are based on early associations from the European homeland, but the former are the more accurate names.


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