Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bison and Mushroom Pot Roast

From as far back as I could remember, the American bison has always held for me a certain mythical quality. The Lakota peoples of the Great Plains called them "tatanka," an animal that weighed a ton and roamed our vast prairies in the millions. American Indian tribes depended on these animals not only for food, clothing, shelter and tools, but for spiritual inspiration as well. 
They are so important to our history that the bison's near extinction the 1800s changed America forever. With their disappearance left a whole way of life and an ending of an era, especially for the American Indians of the Western Plains. When I look upon a bison, I remember this chilling history. 


* * *

Last November, Cousin Pete in Nebraska sent us home with a beautiful piece of roast. I'm not exactly sure where Pete got it, but the way I hear it, it had to do with a couple bison, months of broken fences, a fed up farmer and a gun. The rest... is food. 

From what we could tell, it was probably a piece of blade. Since it was too big for steak and not exactly grill friendly, Rick and I thought the best thing to do was to braise it. Braising  is when you cook a large piece of meat in a covered Dutch oven, or similar vessel, with an acidic liquid. 
The Dutch oven should be tightly shut, allowing the liquid and juices to fall back onto the meat as it cooks. The best way to describe braising is that it's low, slow and moist. 

We can't say that we've perfected the art just yet. The Dutch ovens we own tend to allow steam to escape, so we always end up with a lot less liquid than what we started out. This can cause many problems, including dried out meat, uneven cooking, and in worse cases, burning. This is especially dangerous if you're braising wild game, which doesn't have the great marbling and fat that commonly braised meats such as beef and pork would have. To compensate, check your meat every hour to see if you need to add more water, broth or wine. You want enough liquid to cover 2/3 of the roast. I think with wild game, it helps to also flip the meat every hour. Some people do this. Others don't. Try it and see what works best for you. You can also create a better seal by lining the lid with foil.  

Servings: 6
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 3.5 hours
Ingredients:
- 4-5 lb. bison roast
- 4 tbs. butter
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tbs. canola oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp. thyme
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 14.5 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 1.5 cups of dry red wine
- 3 medium carrots, cut in half lengthwise, and into fourths
- 2 small russet potatoes (or equivalent), peeled and diced
- 2 packages of Baby Bella mushrooms
- salt and pepper, to taste
- crusty bread, for serving


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Dab bison roast dry with paper towels. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over roast, to taste. 
In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tbs. of butter over high heat. Sear all sides of bison roast for a nice brown crust. Be patient. 

Once browned, remove bison and set aside. 
2. Lower heat to medium. Add 2 tbs. of canola oil. Add onion with a pinch of salt. Cook onion for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Stir frequently.

Add chopped garlic. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 
3. Next, add 1 1/2 cups wine. Scrape bottom of the Dutch oven with a wooden spoon. 
4. Return bison to Dutch oven with the onion and wine. Add tomatoes and 2 cups of beef broth. 

Add 1/4 tsp. of thyme and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Then cover tightly and bake in a 350 degree oven for 3 hours. Flip meat after every hour. Check if pot needs more liquid. Bison should be covered 2/3 way.
5. During the last 45 minutes, add chopped carrots and potatoes. 
6. During the last fifteen minutes, heat 2 tbs. of butter over medium-high heat in a pan. Sauté Baby Bella mushrooms until cooked, about 5-7 minutes. Stir often. Set aside.
7. Once bison is tender, remove it from the Dutch oven. Shred roast into bite-sized pieces with forks. 
Meat should be fall off the bone tender.
8. Discard bay leaf. Return shredded meat to pan, along with sautéd mushrooms and any juices. 
Adjust seasonings. Serve with crusty bread, like French. Enjoy!!! This makes a fantastic winter dish. 







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