Beer Braised Bison on a Winter’s Night

IMG_05111We’ve had quite a cold snap here in Maryland this past week, complete with a little snow/ice storm for the weekend. Considering the weather, is it any wonder I’ve been dreaming of a good pot roast, shepherds pie, and other wholly scrumptious wintry dishes?

I’m not afraid of beef, but I must say that I’ve grown weary of tasteless corn-fed beef from the supermarket. I started exploring grass-fed beef a few years ago, but it’s hard to come by in the immediate five-mile radius. What is available, is bison (a.k.a buffalo) and it is divine.

Sometime, about two years back, I gave a bison burger a try at a place called Lures in Crownsville, MD. Without a doubt, it was the best burger I’d ever eaten and I knew instantly that I’d be exploring bison as a replacement for beef in my cooking. Lures is also a great place to get a really great selection of beers.

I have found that ground bison works really well in just about every setting that you might find ground beef. I have fallen in love with bison “new york strips” and rib-eyes as fine substitutes for beef steak in the summer. But I’ve been a little leery of a bison roast, until now.

Sure, bison is great ground up and formed into patties, balls, and loaves. And it’s wonderful grilled as a steak, but could it stand up to a winter meal?

My concern came primarily from the fact that bison is not beef — it does not have the same fat content and the cuts are approximates of those we’ve become accustomed to from its bovine brethren.

To be fair, I’ve not fully jumped into the art of roasting bison cuts — though I am getting braver. I have however substituted — with great success — bison for beef in pot roast.

Last week, I visited Victoria’s Fancy Foods here in Severna Park looking for a jar of raspberry chipotle jelly (I should have just made it myself) when I spied a rather nice looking bison chuck roast in the case. Nearly all the bison available in my area comes from one farm, the Gunpowder Bison & Trading Company in Monkton, MD.

I’ve spoken with some of the staff at the farmer’s market in Annapolis on Sundays. They are a great bunch of folks, who believe in raising animals in a humane way. They welcomed me to come up and visit the farm (something which I’ve not yet done) and to bring my boy with me (just keep him out of the electric fence).

According to their website, their “bison are pastured and provided free-choice hay, corn, and soy beans, meaning that it is offered however they are not forced to consume it. They never use feed additives, growth hormones or antibiotics.” I’ll take that over CAFO beef any day.

So, today, I got down to business and made the family a pot roast from that wonderful bison chuck roast.  The recipe that follows does not call for potatoes cooked with the bison, because I’m working on another recipe that will be posted in the future that I pared the pot roast with.  That being said, if you desire to add potatoes to the pot, do it when you add the other vegetables.

Beer Braised Bison with Vegetables

Ingredients

1 bison chuck roast (approx 2.5 lbs)
1 onion, diced
4-6 stalks celery, diced
4-6 carrots, diced
1 can of beer (yellow american beer is fine)
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
pepper to taste

Cooking Instructions

Coat the bottom of a large dutch oven (or sauté pan if using a crock-pot) with 2 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Combine the garlic powder, oregano, salt and pepper in a bowl and rub into the bison. Brown the meat on all sides, approximately 3-4 minutes on each side. If you are using a crock pot deglaze the pan with beer. Remove the pot from the heat.

Add the celery, carrots, and onions to the dutch oven or crock pot and situate the bison in the center. Pour the beer over the meat and vegetables. It is not paramount that the beer covers the vegetables and meat because there will be plenty of liquid as the vegetables and meat cook. Tuck the bay leaves under the liquid, one on each side of the roast.

Cover and cook on a low heat for approximately four hours. If you are cooking in a crock pot, use a low or medium setting. If you are cooking in the oven, set the oven for 250° F. Turn the meat over once per hour.

After four hours, the bison should easily shred with a fork, if not it needs additional cooking time.

There should be ample liquid in the pot with which to make a gravy. It is possible to thicken the liquid with either cornstarch (mixed with cold water) or a roux. To make a roux, melt three tablespoons of butter in a small fry pan. When the butter is melted, add three tablespoons of white flour. Cook until the roux thickens and begins to brown.

Whether thickening with cornstarch or a roux, bring the liquid to just under a boil and stir in the starch or roux.

4 thoughts on “Beer Braised Bison on a Winter’s Night

  1. Usually you read something on the web and it’s by somebody somewhere else. But, I live in Severna Park and you talk about Victoria’s, which I visit regularly, and Lures, which I plan to visit very soon! I, too, bought a bison chuck roast from Victoria and I’ve had it in the freezer for probably a year. I was looking for something to do with it and stumbled across your web site. With the exception of a few chef’s prerogatives (I added some veggies from my CSA; and, I didn’t shred it!), I followed your suggestions pretty closely – – and it came out beautifully! Thanks for your advice.

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  2. Mine cooked lower but was delicious and a change of pace for me as I usually cook with wine. I used a good dark German beer and the crock pot. Made some roasted root vegetables to serve with and husband deemed it a keeper. First time ever cooking a bison roast which I bought online. Thanks for sharing.

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