Bison Stew with Red Wine and Sweet Bay

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.

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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.

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Bison Stew with Red Wine and Sweet Bay
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound bison stew meat (available here)
  • ½ teaspoon unrefined sea salt
  • ½ 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 ¼-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
  • ½ cup tomato paste (I buy it in glass jars - available here)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Instructions
  1. Sprinkle the bison stew meat with salt and pepper, and set it aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Notes
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).

 

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What people are saying

    • Jenny says

      With the acidic nature of this stew, using a cast iron, but not enameled, Dutch oven will likely cause the pot to leach iron.

      • says

        In my experience braising in non-enameled iron, only a little bit of iron flavor comes through (which I like) and it actually adds to your daily iron intake! Win.
        As long as you remove the food from the pot before stashing leftovers away and reseason it nicely, it’s no biggie.

    • Chuck says

      You do realize all the alcohol will be gone by the time the stew is done cooking? However, you can also buy cooking wine in the grocery store that has no alcohol in it. I’m sure the stew would be just as tasty if you omitted it entirely…

  1. Bethany says

    My husband is sensitive to nightshades so we are avoiding them while we work on healing his gut. Are there any substitutes for tomato paste? Or could I just skip it? I miss stews and chills and this looks delicious!

  2. says

    This looks unreal. I think the local supermarket here only has ground bison. I will have to add stew meat to my next US wellness order. Thanks for the recipe.

  3. Rowena says

    Do you think this would work with goat meat? I have ready access to free range goat meat and wonder if it would work as well as bison – which we don’t have here in Australia.

  4. Bryan Maloney says

    All well and good, but what about those of us who are not rich enough to afford to special order grass-fed beef? Is all this sort of stuff really just like Marie Antoinette playing at peasant in a custom-build fake village on palace grounds?

    • Jenny says

      It’s not my responsibility to cater to your budget. If you can’t afford grass fed bison stew meat, buy less, re prioritize your budget or eat less expensive items like liver and marrow.

    • melissa says

      I would just like to politely point out that that is what this website is all about. Its about healthy and nourishing eating. It’s not meant to be pretentious (though Jenny does love to wax poetic- who doesn’t? If you don’t like that, read another blog), it is the way our grandparents ate beef and other meat after all. The reason for eating grass-fed/Pastured meats isn’t to sound cool, but is based on the actual evidence-based difference in the meat to your health (and also humane-ness to the animals). For your information, our family is on a tight budget. We have a single income and my husband is in school. We choose to prioritize our budget towards wholesome foods for our health and our children’s and sacrifice in other ways, because we believe our long-term health and quality of life is worth it. We do all we can to make it more affordable such as buy through a buying club, buying bulk, buying less expensive cuts of meat and making many things homemade. I truly believe it is all about priorities. What are yours?

  5. Tracy says

    Surprisingly snarky replies to Bryan (who was also snarky, yep), but then I may be biased seeing as I’m someone who also can’t afford pastured meats at the moment, other than now and then. Being able to prioritize that is a lucky thing! Sometimes, it simply isn’t possible – and you know, that’s ok. It’s not something to feel bad about. You do the best you can with what you have. When 2lbs of grass-fed stew beef is $30 and you can’t budget that in, your priorities aren’t messed up if you decide to buy conventional instead. I mean, really. It’s enough to feel bad about your current financial situation without someone else suggesting that your priorities aren’t up to snuff… have a bit of kindness.

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