Day 7 of my three week Eat Local Challenge via Slow Food International held a special excitement. My son, a big city foodie in his own right, was driving up to join me for his first dinner during the challenge, and was excited to eat some good local grub. I wanted the menu to incorporate the very best the Fort Collins, Colorado area has to offer in the way of quality local organic foods, and be a little unusual and creative besides.
We saw these Colorado bison at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in February. The sanctuary is so close to Denver you can see the downtown skyscrapers to the west, and it was a thrill when the herd started moving across the prairie into view.
Bison have also been introduced up north of Fort Collins where I live, in the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space on a 1000 acre pasture. It’s on my list to take a day to go visit – in hopes to see them. To me they are an intriguing, beautiful animal and they hold a sacredness in my heart – even as I’m about to share this recipe.
The bison stew meat I used for this dish was from High Point Bison, just over the border north into Wyoming. I purchased it at our local farmer’s market, and one of the fourth generation ranch owners, Jill Klawonn, told me the bison are free range, 100% grass fed – raised on native prairie pasture. I very rarely eat red meat, but I feel honored to accept the bison, or occasional elk or deer into a meal, if it has had a good life such as this. High Point is very high quality, check their website above.
I got an inspiration about half way into making this bison stew – fragrant with onion and garlic, carrots and potatoes – to deglaze the pan with some of the amazing Big B’s Pommeau (bourbon barrel aged apple brandy) I’d been gifted for a house-warming present back in May, and add some chopped, tart and tangy Pink Lady apples from the farmer’s market.
The flavors were perfect together, subtle whiskey notes, sweet bits of apple mingling with the onion, other vegetables, and lean, tender bison. I used a little rosemary from my community garden plot, along with salt and pepper for my seasonings – wanting to keep with the Eat Local theme just as much as possible, what I had on hand that I felt would work well with the dish.
For a very special presentation, you may choose to serve this fragrant, nourishing stew in a baked pumpkin. After it’s hollowed out, and you’ve reserved the seeds for cleaning up and roasting, rub the inside of the pumpkin with a little softened butter, then tilt it to salt the curved sides. Halfway through cooking the stew on the stove, you’ll slide the pumpkin into a 375 degree oven to bake 30-40 minutes or until tender, depending on it’s thickness.
Colorado Bison and Apple Stew Pommeau
Makes 4-6 delicious servings, depending on your appetites
- 1 lb. bison stew meat
- a couple tbsp. or so of oil, butter, or in my case, organic rendered chicken fat
- 1 medium onion, peeled and diced, about 1 1/2 cups
- 5-6 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 3 large Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and diced, about 4 cups
- 3 large carrots, scrubbed or peeled and diced same size as potatoes, about 3 cups
- 3 medium sized Pink Lady apples, washed, cored, diced same size as vegetables, about 3-4 cups
- 1/2 – 2/3 c. Pommeau, bourbon barrel aged hard apple cider (straight bourbon or cider could also be used)
- 1 1/2 tsp, minced fresh rosemary
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium high heat, bring oil or butter to a sizzle, then add bison stew meat all at once, spreading it quickly over bottom of pan. Let the pieces brown for several minutes before stirring, then as the meat juices release, continue to brown until the pan is nearly – but not completely – dry. Add onion and garlic, combining well, and stir, cooking for 7-8 minutes, then add potatoes and carrots, combining once more – all while pan is still over medium high heat.
Pour cider in all at once, stirring well. It looks and sounds like this:
Add water to nearly cover the meat and vegetables, lower heat to medium, cover pan, and let cook for around 2 hours, stirring occasionally, checking meat and vegetables for tenderness. When they are nearly tender, add apples.
Simmer a while longer – lowering the heat a little more, adjusting with a bit more water if necessary. The potatoes and carrots will begin to break down and naturally thicken the stew. Taste and adjust seasonings, pull your pumpkin from the oven, and ladle this delicious stew into it’s own special pot. It’s really a fantastic presentation, carrying the pumpkin and stew on its platter to the table, marvelous fragrance billowing out.
I served the stew both separately and with a sliced chunk of the pumpkin, along with grilled corn and local raw goat milk chevre stuffed roast poblano peppers as a side. We loved it, and leftovers sent out into the night were met with a great reception, too.
I’m so grateful for all the abundance in the area of Colorado where I live, and am finding it is quite easy, with very few exceptions, to create all my meals daily from sustainable farms, dairies, and ranches. This meal was truly proof of that. Yum!!! And blessings to all who made it possible.