Yesterday, we came home with a pound of bison stew meat from Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm. Throw in some fresh veggies from the farmers' market... I couldn't wait to get home, and put together a mouth-watering stew for dinner. This is so simple, and will fill your house with a heavenly stew aroma in no time. Plus, it's a slow cooker meal... perfect for those families on the go!
A brief history of stew: Stewing meat is a manner of cooking that has been around longer than any other method of cooking. What classifies a stew? Any dish containing meat as the main component that is cooked over direct heat in a liquid base. Stews are perfect for tougher cuts of meat, as making a stew is a practice in patience. But slow cooking will break down the meat, making it tender and quite flavorful. Stews of yore were known to be cooked in the animal's own paunch, turtle shells... even mollusk shells. Modern-day stews can range from simple to quite complex dishes. Allow your creativity in the kitchen to take-over... the sky's the limit!
1 lbs. bison stew meat
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. rendered bacon fat
4 cloves garlic, crushed
5 small potatoes, quartered (we used 3 "Purple Majesty" potatoes, and 2 red potatoes)
4 med. carrots, sliced
6 oz. portobello mushrooms, sliced
2 shallots, quartered
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. parsley
4 Tbs. flour
1 bottle of stout beer (we used Guiness)
1 C. beef stock
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
We start of with the stew pieces. Pat them dry with paper towels so that they will brown evenly.
Heat up a skillet over med-high heat. Add the olive oil and bacon fat. I'm one of those weirdos with a mason jar full of questionable-look white goo in the back of my refrigerator at all times. Every time we cook bacon, I allow the grease to cool (but not solidify) and add it into the jar. It adds amazing flavor to meats whilst cooking. But, if you don't keep a stockpile of lard in the back of your fridge, just fry up a couple pieces of bacon and use the remaining rendered fat left in the pan for this step.
That succulent fat will melt right in the pan with the olive oil. Then, you're ready to add your meat. Don't crowd it. Cook it in batches if you must. It will cook more evenly.
Cooked the bison until it is just nicely browned on each side. Meanwhile, collect your vegetables...
Everything we used came fresh from the farmers' market. Earthly, freshly picked carrots. Fresh garlic. This was the first time I have ever had the pleasure of cooking with truly fresh garlic. I was surprised to find it quite different than the store-bought variety. It is moist... even the skin. The stuff you get in the grocery store is parched in comparison. The outer layers peel so easily. And, oh my... is it ever fragrant! When you crush the cloves, they are actually juicy. Such a lovely experience to cook with. We tried some "Purple Majesty" potatoes mixed in with some red potatoes. The purple variety is sweet, buttery and packed with flavor. Plus, if you stick with the "rainbow food" theory... all of those bright colors provide varied antioxidants, vitamins, and health benefits. This meal is colorful. So, it must be super healthy too!
Add the thyme, parsley, and flour to the veggies. Toss to mix. Then, add the beer and beef stock; season with salt and pepper. Toss in your cooked bison, and stir to get everything covered in a rich coating of the beer and stock mixture. Cover that crock pot, set it on low and cook for 5-6 hours (stirring periodically). Once the potatoes are soft, and the meat is practically falling apart... you'll know your stew is done!
I'm a fairly modest person. And, not to toot my own horn... but this is quite possibly the best stew I've ever had in my life. And, the perfect accompaniment to sop up the delicious gravy left in the bowl is some freshly-baked beer bread. I'll be back tomorrow with that recipe!
The blog will keep going with new posts this week. But, I am in the process of a redesign. So, it ain't looking so hot around here right now. Bear with me... the new reveal should be done by next Sunday. We're also working on getting some lighting. I'm used to cooking in a very open home with lots of windows. Our new house is more cozy. But, with cozy... comes poor lighting situations. I have one window in my kitchen. If I get done with a recipe after dark, the photos just plain suck. But, I work with them as much as I can. Like I said... we're trying to get some lighting in here. And, payday is coming. That means new dishes too! While these turquoise ones go fabulously with my kitchen, they photograph terribly. New white dishes coming for me! Just stick with me... things are improving around here. Slowly, but surely.
* I am a huge fan of Food Network's "Next Food Network Star." So, I'm going to add a fun play-along feature to the blog and play along each week. I know, I know... I'm about 4 episodes behind. But, thanks to my kids' busy little fingers with the DVR controls... I lost all of the episodes, and had to play catch-up watching them today. In light of that, we'll just have to play a little catch-up around here too. Be looking for the first round to begin this coming Wednesday!