July is National Bison Month, so we checked in with the executive director of the National Bison Association for insider tips on the best ways to find and serve up buffalo meat.
Born and raised along the Front Range, Dave Carter studied journalism at University of Northern Colorado but found his true calling working with farmers and ranchers at the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union for 25 years. Now, as the executive director of the National Bison Association, Carter has been promoting buffalo as an easily sustainable alternative to beef since 2001. Bison are easy to raise and provide a lean, high-protein red meat. Plus, foodies are discovering what Dave and wife Sue have known all along: Bison meat is just darn tasty.
"You can buy directly from some ranchers, whether you get a half a buffalo or just a selection of cuts. You're helping a small rancher and the price per pound is less." www.bisoncentral.com.
Don't be Cheesy
Buffalo milk and buffalo mozzarella come from water buffaloes. Don't confuse the two, says Dave. "You can't milk a bison...they are not your typical livestock."
Sue likes to add a touch of chuck-wagon casual to the dinner table or a picnic. "Lots of times in the summer I'll use bandanas instead of napkins," she says. She wraps red and blue bandannas with her set of rustic metal buffalo napkin rings.
Dave makes his cowboy potatoes all year round and serves them at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. But in the summertime, he beats the heat by throwing a cast iron skillet directly on his outdoor grill. "It works great because you can get the skillet really hot."
The Carters recommend keeping it simple when grilling up a buffalo tenderloin, but they do have a few favorite seasonings. "I found this at the Denver Holiday Gift Mart," says Sue, holding up a jar of Hal's Secret Spice "Deep-pit Seasoning" by Montana Bounty Foods. She also likes the Buffalo Nickel's Special Blend. Available online: www.bountyfoods.com or www.buffalo-nickel.com.
"There's almost a mystique about [bison]," explains Sue. "But you only name the mama buffaloes, not the babies, so you don't get too attached."
The Carters frequent the farmers' markets, but also buy directly from local ranchers. "We get our chicken from Wisdom Natural Poultry in Haxton, Colorado," says Dave. "Their chickens run around outside, and they are raised all-natural with no antibiotics."
RECIPE: Grilled Bison Tenderloin with Cowboy Potatoes (Serves 2)
For Bison Tenderloin
- 2 7- to 8-ounce bison tenderloins
- 4 unpeeled red potatoes, cubed
- 1 green pepper, cubed
- 1/2 white onion, cubed
- Two cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, removed from stems
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
For Cowboy Potatoes
For Bison Tenderloin: Bring the steaks to room temperature. Rub steaks with Hal's Deep-pit Seasoning and pepper. Drizzle fresh lemon and olive oil across the steaks. Rub mixture into the meat. Preheat grill to high. Sear the steaks to hold the juices, and adjust the flame to cook to temperature. Bison is cooked best at 140 degrees or lower (medium-rare). Let the steaks rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
For Cowboy Potatoes: Cube and parboil four unpeeled red potatoes. Cube green pepper and onion. Preheat skillet over medium-high heat. Melt butter and add olive oil. Cut each clove in half and cook in the butter-olive oil mixture. Add potatoes, pepper, and onion. Cook until potatoes begin to run brown. About five minutes before removing from stove, add the fresh rosemary. Mix in well with the potatoes, peppers, and onions.