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Monday, October 18, 2010

Bison feast

After the bison was all wrapped up and put in the freezer, I invited the hunting party over for a dinner featuring bison much like an episode of Iron Chef. For more about the bison get the previous blog.
The featured cocktail was Bourbon on the rocks with a Bison Jerky stir stick.

I made two kinds of jerky from the bison.

1. Soy sauce, pepper and fresh garlic

2. Garden fresh herbs: sage, rosemary and thyme, salt, pepper and maple syrup.

The first course: New Style Bison Carpaccio

I got the idea for this dish from Nobu's new style sashimi. Nobu invented this dish for "gringo's" who are squeamish about eating raw fish. He takes smoking hot olive oil and drizzles it over a plate of sashimi to lightly sear it. Same with the carpaccio. I thinly sliced bison tenderloin with the Phoenix 9. Then lightly pounded it paper thin between two sheets of wax paper. After arranging on the plate, I scattered thyme, fresh garlic, salt and pepper over it. I then drizzled smoking hot olive oil over the plate to sear the tenderloin and release the yumminess of the garlic and thyme. Then arrange garden fresh arugula dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Course 2: Mesquite grilled bison Italian sausage and sauteed garden fresh mustard greens with garlic and balsamic vinegar.

Course 3:Mesquite grilled Bison burger mixed with morel mushrooms, with homemade pickle,garden fresh onion, tomato and mayo. Served with garden fresh tomato and mint salad.


Course 4: Aged bison tenderloin smothered in butter and rosemary, grilled on mesquite charcoal. Served with garden fresh roasted potatoes and mixed green salad.

Because it has no fat, it is great to smoother the tenderloin in butter before you grill it so you can get a nice char on the outside before the inside is over cooked. Like all game meat, bison goes from succulent rare quickly to well done and tough.

I don't think it would have defeated an Iron Chef but it was pretty darn good!



Monday, October 11, 2010

The Carving knife is great for butchering!

My friends and I recently harvested a bison from the National Forest outside of Grand Teton National Park. Check the older post for details. After hanging it in my buddy Ned's garage for 10 days, we butchered it over several days. We cut the prime cuts into steaks and roasts. As wild game is tough in general and an old bull specifically can be very tough, we prepped the majority of the meat for jerky, burger and sausage.

I brought the full compliment of New West knives for the task. Most sharp knives work fine for cutting meat but trimming silver skin off or wild game is a very challenging operation. Silver skin is connective tissue on all game meat that must be trimmed off because it is inedible, it is much like chewing a tough rubber band. I thought the ever useful Petty knife would be the best knife for the task. It worked admirably but I also brought along the carving knife from our phoenix carving set. It was the run away star of the butchering job.

I usually think of our traditional shaped carving knife as a great and flashy tool for carving roasts and turkeys. Though it works great for that job, honestly many knives work great for that job. The chef, super bread, santoku and even the diminutive petty will take care of carving roasts with ease. In butchering the bison, the carving knife really showed what a fantastic design this traditional shape really is. The fine point is perfect for separating the silver skin from the meat. The razor sharp edge cleanly cut the silver skin from the meat. The long blade is essential to allow for a long slicing motion to cut through tough sections. The long blade is also great for slicing the huge muscle groups in a bison leg.

As we were separating the different pieces of meat, we made sample steaks of several different cuts and threw them on the grill to determine which would be good for grilling which were to tough and needed to be made into cuts for slow braising or ground into burger or sausage.

Being elbow deep in buffalo flesh didn't make for convenient photography of the whole process but some of the highlights were grinding the meat into burger and sausage. I will take credit for procuring the essential fats to take it over the top from a locavore perspective. Wild game meat is to lean and doesn't have enough fat to make tasty burger or sausage, so fat from domestic cows and pigs must be added to give it moisture and flavor. For the burger, I got a garbage bag of beef fat from the Mead Ranch, a local cattle ranch that has been in operation since it was first homesteaded in the late 1800's. The Meads raise their cows on the ranch grass 10 miles from my house. The meat is also hung for 21 days to develop a flavor I have not experienced anywhere else. The pork fat was from the pigs was raised by local 4H kids for the Teton County Fair.

Paul another of the foursome and the MVP of the bison harvest was leader of the sausage making process. He has been hunting and butchering his own meat since he was a kid. He mixed up a delicious batch of Italian sausage. I gathered special ingredients to create an admirable breakfast sausage. I always like to keep recipes as simple as possible. We used fresh sage, salt and pepper. The final ingredient was maple syrup procured from the Lamson Goodnow factory store in Western Massachutes where New West knives are now made. The maple trees are tapped within a few miles of the factory. Though clearly not local to Jackson Hole, WY, the half gallon jug I brought home in my suitcase, has the love in it you feel from procuring ingredients from the source.

Stuffing the sausage into natural casings to create beautiful sausages was the final step in turning a bison on the hoof into beautiful piece of culinary yumminess.

New West KnifeWorks

Bison Harvest

CAUTION: If images of animals being slaughtered is disturbing to you do not read this post.

Three friends and I decided last winter that we would all enter the drawing to get a tag to hunt Bison in Wyoming this Fall. About 6000 people apply for the annual bison hunt in Northwest Wyoming. About 100 hunters actually get licenses. We figured that if all 4 of us applied we would have a better chance. It was agreed that regardless of who actually got the licences and shot the animal, we would work together to harvest, butcher and share equally in the meat. As you will see hunting, field dressing, hanging and butchering a 2000 pound animal is an epic that takes four people to accomplish.

A note on hunting the mighty buffalo.

There are those that might think that hunting the largest land animal in North America is not sporting or environmentally ethical. Personally, I believe there is nothing further from the truth. It took 12 days of driving rutted out forest service roads and bush whacking through mountainous terrain to find a buffalo. A glorious endeavor to be sure. Though Bull buffalo have no natural predators, so they are not likely to run when encountered. They are never the less difficult to find in legal hunt areas.

The American Bison, aka the Buffalo, no longer roams the American west in the millions as it once did but the population has recovered in the areas where it has enough habitat to sustain it. In Jackson Hole, where we don't have the Bison's natural predators recovered in sufficient numbers to control the population, the Wyoming Fish and Game department uses hunting as a method to maintain a healthy population that is sustainable without doing damage to the environment and its food source. The recent reintroduction of the wolf has had a beneficial impact on culling the herd of young and sick animals but it is not significant enough to sustainably control the population on its own.

I consider myself a meat hunter. I have no interest in running around in the woods trying to track down the alpha male of a species to hang it on my wall. Rather the ability to harvest an animal that has grazed on the pure and clean grasses of Grand Teton National Park a half our from my house is the ultimate in sustainable eating practices. In truth, I believe it to be a locavores wet dream. This adventure of hunting, field dressing, butchering, making sausage and burger and preparing a bison feast worthy of "Iron Chef" was one of the most rewarding food experiences of my life.

My buddy Jed, local contractor and avid home gardener won the lottery and drew the bison tag. He had the honor of shooting our bull on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning at 9 am. It took us a full day to dress the animal and transport it out of the woods. We were out of the woods while it was still daylight which is no mean feat in the annals of buffalo hunting.

To get a 2000 pound animal in some form where it can be loaded onto a truck is an epic unto itself. It must be skinned, headed, four legs removed( quartered), gutted and ribs removed. Just rolling the animal from one side to the other took several guys and ropes.

As the resident cutlery expert, I was in charge of making sure that we had a full quiver of knives to do the job. I brought A LOT of knives. I definitely over packed. The knives we used most were the mini chopper (I have known for years it is an excellent skinner.), the fusion wood paring which had a lot of what's called a bird and trout shape in it's design, and the sturdy chopper.
By three o'clock we had the animal dressed and ready for loading. We were very fortunate to find something resembling a road that allowed us to drive right to the kill site. The drive in was definitely "western' but we "got er done". It actually took two trucks to carry the mighty tatunka.

The head took 4 guys and a lot of grunting to get into the truck. As you are only allowed to shot one bison in the state of Wyoming in your lifetime, Jed elected to pay to have it mounted. He says it will be cute to have a Santa hat on it at Christmas.

More to come about butchering the bison in the next post.



Friday, October 1, 2010

Coyote Loops Freshest Potato Salad

Jackson Hole, WY is a short drive over Teton pass to Idaho the potato capital of the world. So I think of the potato as one of the signature ingredients in Jackson Hole cuisine. I grow a healthy batch of potatoes in my garden every summer. I like to get funky stuff you can't usually get at the grocery store fingerling's, purple ones, red fleshed ones. They all work great in this recipe. I used some classic reds from the garden for this one. If you have never tried it, the fresh red potato also makes a mashed potato that has a texture that is sublime. My favorite thing about this dish is all the produce comes from my garden and all the ingredients are super cold tolerant so I can count having them every summer.


Fresh mustard greens (baby when you can get it)
Whole onion chopped. Bulb and greens if available
Olive oil
Dollop of mayonnaise. Fresh made from your own eggs is over the top but regular Hellman's works fine.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the potatoes into bite size pieces. Don't be concerned about be exact in size this dish is meant to be rustic. I used a new USA made Chopper I wanted to test out. You could use many New West knives. Petty or any of our chefs or santoku's.

Smother the potatoes in olive oil and plenty of salt. Roast the potatoes in 450 degree oven until golden brown and soft in the middle.

Rough chop the Mustard greens or if you have baby mustard greens use them whole. (we had already eaten all the baby mustard greens from the garden.)

Fine dice onion bulb and greens.

Dress greens in a serving bowl with olive oil and salt.

Pour the roasted potatoes hot from the oven on top of the greens. Don't mix right away. Allow the hot potatoes to soften the greens.

Add a dollop of mayonnaise, generous pour of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Toss and serve warm. Yum.



Creamed Corn

When Chef Brother Chris was visiting, one of things that he made was creamed corn. It was a revelation! Having grown up in central Ohio, where we believed we grow the best tasting sweet corn in the world, I ate a ton of corn growing up. I never questioned whether there was anyway to eat sweet corn than on the cob. Chris' preparation was unbelievably simple and delicious. My only experience with creamed corn was a healthy disrespect for the stuff that comes in a can. Who knew creamed corn doesn't even have cream?

The key to this recipe is good sweet corn. We got ours from the local farmers market. It was grown over the pass in Idaho, as close we can get to local. It was pretty good. (No Buckeye sweet corn but pretty good).

Here's the recipe.

Grate the corn off the cob using the largest cutters on a box grater. Chris used a baking pan to catch the grated corn.
Pour contents into a sauce pan.

Add some butter

Simmer and stir occasionally until it is done. A couple of ears takes about ten minutes. This batch with about 6 ears took a half hour. Much like corn on the cob, some folks like it cooked a little some like it cooked more. Just taste it until you like it.

Finish with more butter and salt to taste. Much like the noble mashed potato this dish can be enhanced with additional flavor like truffle oil, sage or garlic. But it is hard to beat butter and salt.