Bison stew warms our bellies on the coldest of days. While winter recedes and spring emerges across most of the northern hemisphere, here, in the high country, it continues to snow. Spring doesn’t show her face here until early June, though I did see my first purple-flanked crocus emerge from the earth a few days ago, though crusty icy still clung to its petals and sharp, green leaves. Winter doesn’t leave the mountains quite so easily.
So while spring dances in blossoms and green across much of the country, we settle inside for the cold, snow, mud and wind that marks off-season in the mountains. We rely on warming foods, heavy and robust, like thick Bison Stew. Bison is a lovely meat, like beef, only stronger, saltier and more pronounced. I like to pair it with other robust flavors – tomato, red wine, thyme, rosemary and sweet bay.
Why Choose Grass-fed Meats
I favor grass-fed meats; indeed, it’s the only kind of meat I purchase. When animals graze on fresh grass, under the sun, and with free access to clean water and air, it supports their overall health. Healthy animals produce healthy meat. Indeed, the meat of cattle, bison and other ruminant animals fed exclusively on grass offers healthier fats, a better array of fat-soluble vitamins and even more antioxidants than the meat of animals finished on grain, corn or in feedlots.
Further, the the practice of intentional, mindful holistic management of grazing animals replenishes the soils, improving the array of flora and that, in turn, improves the broader ecology of grasslands. The Alan Savory Institute, an organization that studies and promotes large-scale restoration and regeneration of the world’s grasslands through holistic livestock management, has illustrated how mindful management of livestock can improve the soil, the grasses and even reverse desertification.
Where to Find Grass-fed Meats
You can find grass-fed meats at most farmers markets, as well as at many health food stores; however, if you live in an area where these foods are inaccessible, you can order grass-fed bison as well as grass-fed beef online.
- 1 pound bison stew meat (available here)
- 1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons bacon fat or lard (learn how to render lard)
- 1 branch rosemary
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
- 3 ribs celery, chopped fine
- 3 carrots, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
- 3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups homemade beef stock (get the recipe here)
- 2 cups red wine
- 1/2 cup tomato paste (I buy it in glass jars - available here)
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Sprinkle the bison stew meat with salt and pepper, and set it aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
- Melt the bacon fat in a dutch oven (like this one) over medium-high heat. Place rosemary and thyme in the hot fat, and let it fry gently for 2 to 3 minutes, then pluck the herbs from the pan, and stir in the seasoned meat. Sear it on each side - a total of 5 minutes, then remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon, and stir in the onion, celery and carrots. Fry them gently in the seasoned fat about 6 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Return the meat to the pan, and add the potatoes.
- Pour the beef stock and red wine into the Dutch oven, then stir in the tomato paste. Drop in the bay leaves, and simmer it, covered, over medium-low heat for 2 hours. Remove the bay leaves, ladle into bowls and serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.
If you cannot find bison stew meat, you can substitute grass-fed beef stew meat which you can find at local farmers markets, as well as online. If you do not consume pork, you can substitute grass-fed ghee (available here).