Bison Stew

Ever since we got our big box’o’bison, I’ve been wanting to make stew.

Unfortunately, there was only 1 package of stew meat in our box, everything else is a 2-3 pound roast of some sort — prime rib roast, cross rib roast, chuck roast, etc… or steaks. That’s a lot of big chunks! Thinking about it just now, I guess I could technically cut up the chuck roast into bite sized chunks and use that for stewing as well. It would just require a few extra prep steps and I would have to be cooking stew for more than just myself & The Hubbs. The package of stew meat was actually the perfect size for us. We each had a bowl for dinner and we’ll probably get maybe 1-2 more bowls each from the leftovers. Keep in mind: we are small eaters, so in reality, I think most couples could probably polish off the stew in one go.

Kind of back tracking a bit — a couple of nights ago, I was doing a little game of back & forthing on Facebook with Ozymand about recipe apps that I use for the iPad. For interest’s sake, I highly recommend: Epicurious, Allrecipes, and Big Oven. The best celebrity chef app I’ve found, to date, would have to be Mario Batali Cooks!. It has to be the most impressive cooking app I’ve ever seen. Every single recipe has a video. Every. Single. One. Not only that, but there’s a whole slew tips and techniques videos which is pretty fantastic for beginners. It’s just that amazing if you’re wanting to learn Italian cooking. Do make sure you’re downloading specifically the HD/iPad versions of the apps, not the ones for iPhone.

After having talked about the apps, I did a little random recipe surfing and came across a recipe for a dry chimichurri rub on Epicurious.

I don’t think I need to remind anyone how much I absolutely ~lurv~ chimichurri sauce. It is probably one of the most amazing sauces I have ever eaten in my entire life. It just makes my taste buds go crazy with a perfectly grilled steak. I actually dream of that sauce with a hunk of meat and some wonderfully crusty bread to mop up the leftovers. So yummy. *sigh*

Anyhow, since I rarely never have the fresh ingredients on hand for chimichurri sauce, I thought it would be fantastic to have this as a pantry staple for instant gratification. It wouldn’t be quite as perfect as having it freshly made, but it would certainly satisfy any cravings I had in a pretty quick minute.

Unfortunately, even for the dry rub, I found out I didn’t have enough/all the ingredients on hand: I ended up short on the thyme and I’ve never had savory in the house, so substituted it with marjoram. As far as I can tell, the rub tastes perfectly fine with the minor alterations and doesn’t appear to have suffered any great loss. When I run out of this first batch, I will be making it with the proper amount of thyme, but I don’t think I am going to be worrying over the savory-marjoram issue.

Dry Chimichurri Rub

3 Tbsp dried oregano leaves
3 Tbsp dried basil leaves
2 Tbsp dried parsley flakes
2 Tbsp dried thyme leaves
2 Tbsp coarse kosher salt
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp dried savory (or marjoram) leaves
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
1-2 tsp dried crushed red pepper

Whisk all ingredients in medium bowl.
Transfer to 250ml canning jar.
Store at room temperature.

To make a marinade: whisk 1/4 cup rub with 1/2 cup olive oil and 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar.

…Back to my stew…

It was really, really tasty. I’m still amazed that I can make stew!

Growing up, I didn’t like the beef stew my Mom made. She had the basics down: water, beef, celery, carrots, onions, potatoes, salt & pepper. But that was pretty much it for her stew. There may have been a bayleaf involved, but I’m not 100% certain on that. Seriously. That was it. I was really unhappy whenever she made it. Older bro, on the other hand, loved it. And as far as I know, probably still does. I always wished she would make a beef stew with a dark, rich and flavourful broth, but it never happened. I think mu biggest problem was that I could never tell her how to make it tastier. I just didn’t have the vocabulary for it. But then again, I imagine if Mom ever made a different kind of stew, then Older Bro probably wouldn’t be happy about the change. I guess if you’re into bland food, then Mom’s version of stew would definitely be for you. All I know is that it’s definitely not for me.

My original plan was to make stew for yesterday’s supper, but stuff came up and we ended up having family dindin instead. That gave me the opportunity to marinate the bison meat for a day until I made the stew today. That doesn’t sound right. Marinating involves liquids and I used no liquids with the bison. So what is the correct term for using a dry rub and letting it sit around to do its thing? I am having a complete mental block o_O;;

In a bowl I added 2 generous tablespoons of the chimichurri rub to the meat (I’m guessing that it was about 1 pound-ish) and mixed it well to coat, covered it up and stuck it back into the fridge until today. I suppose I could’ve added a little oil to help moisten things up, but I didn’t.

For the liquid component to the stew, I used some beef broth, de-alcoholized red wine that I still had leftover from my first beef stew experiment, a couple of sploshes of apple cider vinegar to cut the sweetness of the “wine” and a generous squeeze of tomato paste which was dissolved in the hot broth.

Veggie-wise, next time I think I will make sure to add some parsnips along with the usual carrots, onions and celery and perhaps even consider adding a turnip or a rutabegga for something new & different.

The stew ended up being on the watery side only because I didn’t have any potatoes in the house to add for the veggie component. I suppose I could have added a bit of a cornstarch slurry just before serving to bring it all together but I wasn’t terribly bothered by the thinness of the broth. I realize that for some people potatoes are a must in a stew, and I know the potatoes are a key thickening agent, but honestly, I’m just not a huge fan of potatoes to begin with and I didn’t really miss them. I think if I served the stew with mashed potatoes on the side, it would actually be a really tasty way to go along with some crusty bread for sopping up the extra liquids. Surprisingly, The Hubbs had no comments on the lack of potatoes.

The overall flavour of the stew was very satisfying. The addition of apple cider vinegar was an excellent choice that took away the unpalatable sweetness that I remember from making the beef stew. The funny thing about this stew was that it had this warmth that I couldn’t identify. I couldn’t quite put my finger on until I was almost done eating — it was the smoked paprika and crushed red chili flakes from the dry rub that was giving me the intriguing flavours. The Hubbs said he liked the warmth that they both gave to the stew, but I’m still on the fence about it. Mainly I’m curious to know how the stew would taste without the background warmth and smokiness.

Anyhow, I’ve totally guessed on the measurements that I’ve written for the recipe, so just run with what you know and like. Given that I went with the super lazy route for making the stew by not browning the meat in a pan first and not deglazing the pan with liquids afterwards, you could just mix the meat with the dry rub and throw it straight into the slow cooker along with the rest of the ingredients instead of marinating the meat overnight. I have no idea how it would affect the intensity of flavours, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt the recipe in any way and it would definitely take out the extra day’s worth of prep.

Overall, it was a perfect meal to have on a snowy December day and I would definitely make it again. It was just the right amount of interesting without making the stew feel like it had been changed too much from being a nice bowl of familiarity.

Bison Stew

1lb bison stew meat
2 Tbsp chimichurri rub (generous tablespoons!)
3 carrots, peeled & chopped
3 sticks celery, chopped
1 onion, peeled & chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 cup beef broth
1 cup de-alcoholized red wine
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 tsp rosemary

Mix the bison with the chimichurri rub and put the meat in the bottom of slow cooker. (Or cover and refridgerate over night)
Add chopped vegetables on top of meat.
In a bowl, stir together the beef broth, wine, vinegar and tomato paste.
Pour broth over beef and vegetables, liquid should come almost cover everything, but not quite.
Add bay leaves & rosemary.
Cover and cook on high about 6 hours.
Serve stew with mashed potatoes and crusty bread, if desired.

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