Given my passion for animals and nature, I would like to be able to say that I cannot bring myself to eat my fellow earth creatures. I have to be honest, though . . . I love a good steak. If it leaves a pool of red on the plate, even better. (Have I already lost some of you readers?) I do struggle with the concept of large factory farms and feedlots, however. I try when I can to search out foods that are not loaded with unhealthy antibiotics and other additives, where I can actually identify the source of the meat I am eating and the process they use to grow and butcher it. If the source of that meat comes with a good story, even better. Such is the case with Wild Idea Buffalo Company.
I was introduced to Wild Idea Buffalo when I read the book, Buffalo for the Broken Heart, by Dan O’Brien. No doubt the book resonated with me in part because I grew up near the prairies of South Dakota, but Mr. O’Brien tells a compelling story of his journey creating a buffalo ranch operation that was premised on sustainable agricultural practices, while respecting the history of the Great Plains buffalo. His writing brings alive the landscape of the prairie and vividly depicts the interesting characteristics of buffalo. By the end of the book, the reader is eager to wander out to the ranch and sit down at their kitchen table with a cup of coffee in hand, just for the opportunity to hear more stories of life on the ranch, before heading outside to watch the buffalo graze as the sun sets. Shortly after completing the book, I searched for Wild Idea’s website, and placed our first order.
I can reconcile my love of the world’s fauna with my carnivorous cravings, as I read Wild Idea’s philosophy of “returning dignity to meat”:
Our buffalo are raised with love and respect. They are harvested with dignity in the pastures they graze. The buffalo are field dressed in a mobile abattoir on the prairie, operated by Sustainable Harvest Alliance. The carcasses are transported to Wild Idea’s new processing facility and turned into fine, prime buffalo cuts by skilled artisan butchers. By following nature’s circle of life, we help restore the link between the land, the animals, and the people.
These photos from the cabin reflect why my food postings are few. My husband is the primary cook in the household and his kitchen prep and serving areas are not always, shall we say, staged in a manner intended for a blog photo-shoot. Long before the concept of a blog ever entered my mind, my husband splurged with the gift certificate he received from my parents and purchased one of Wild Idea’s Buffalo Prime Rib Export Roasts. A carnivore’s dream. Perfectly prepared. Oh my! The camera came out at dinner time for this meal. Peter Luger, eat your heart out.
We do not put on airs at the cabin. Heck, we really are not “putting on airs” people, period. But, at home we might bring out the china and a tablecloth, because I do not believe in saving those things just for special occasions. In contrast, the cabin dinnerware is a set of old camping dishes on a hand-me-down formica table, with plastic wine glasses that don’t shatter when they hit the concrete floor. I assure you, the rustic setting did not detract from the flavors of that dinner. If anything, we had nothing to distract us from enjoying every last, meaty bite.
I am not going to suggest that I eat a 100% organic, whole foods, purely sustainable diet, or that the only red meat we eat now is grass-fed buffalo (I have two teenaged boys and my food budget is not infinite like their appetites). But, we have found ourselves returning frequently to buffalo as our preferred red meat choice.
Lest I leave you with the last image of me in your mind being a middle-aged mom sitting in the northwoods gnawing on a prime rib bone, let me assure you that we do clean up nicely on occasion. When we hosted our quarterly dinner club gathering (I discussed our 20-year dinner club tradition in this post if you missed it) for our typically holiday-themed meal in December one year, we decided that buffalo filet mignon was a festive entrée choice. The china and tablecloth came out for this meal.
The key to properly preparing a buffalo steak is to not overcook it — a difficult task when you first begin working with buffalo meat because it is so lean (or so my husband tells me, since I have not personally prepared any of the buffalo steaks we have ordered over the years). This is one of the reasons why buffalo meat is a healthier choice than traditional beef steak, besides the additional nutrients (like high omega-3’s) found in buffalo meat, reflected by this nutritional comparison chart, and as discussed in this article discussing heart-healthy foods.
While the recipe we chose for the buffalo filet mignon had a black pepper coriander sauce, we have found that a properly cooked grass-fed buffalo steak (which in our house means medium rare, heavy emphasis on the rare), needs no sauce or marinade. The almost-sweet flavor, beef-like but not, stands on its own. It does not have a “gamey” flavor like some may think.
Just as you can purchase various parts of a cow to consume, you also can purchase various parts of a buffalo. Tongue, anyone? I think the buffalo tongue was a promotion when we ordered, receiving a free tongue with purchase. (I honestly cannot recall saying excitedly, “Let’s order a tasty buffalo tongue!”) As long as we had it, we decided it would be one of the appetizers for our holiday dinner club gathering. We used the recipe and preparation instructions that came with tongue. Unfortunately, I only have a photo of the finished product, which everyone pronounced “delish,” just as promised by the recipe. All I can tell you about the “before” status is that it looked like a tongue. A very, very big tongue.
Here is a recipe for your next dinner party — surely a conversation-starter, but more importantly, the flavors are a great meal starter:
Buffalo Tongue Simmered in Wine
Recipe courtesy of the Wild Idea Buffalo Company ~ By: Jill O’Brien
Makes 24 appetizer servings. This favorite delicacy in the late 1800′s, is making its way back on to fine restaurant menus. This easy, gourmet recipe will have your guests asking for more.
Jill’s Note: My preference is to peel the tongue before cooking to maximize flavor and tenderness. This is optional, as tongue can be simmered with skin on and slipping off after cooking is complete and tongue has cooled a bit.
- 1 Buffalo Tongue, peeled
- 1 stick organic butter
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 bottle white wine
- Remove skin with pairing knife from tongue & vein from underside.
- In deep sauté pan over medium high heat, heat 1 stick of butter.
- Place peeled tongue, onion, garlic and seasonings in pan. Rotate tongue to brown on all sides.
- Add white wine and bring to a full boil.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered, turning occasionally for 2.5 hrs.
- Remove tongue and reduce all juices, caramelizing onions.
- Slice tongue thin & serve on toast points.
- Top with caramelized onions and garnish with a dollop of horseradish cream & parsley.
(A link to purchase tongue directly if you cannot find it in your local grocery store can be found here.)
Anyone else have a favorite buffalo tongue story to share? . . . OK, how about a favorite buffalo meat recipe?
Ciao! ~ Kat B.
[Note: This post was edited after publishing to revise links to nutritional content/nutritional benefits, as well as to correct and clarify link for purchasing buffalo tongue.]