Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Real American Food

No, I'm not being patriotic or nationalistic, just cheeky.

When Wandering Chopsticks picked America as the next region for Regional Recipes, I was really interested to see what people would come up with. I asked my husband and in-laws (who are Danish) what comes to mind when they think of American food and the unanimous answer was burgers. Not surprising, considering McD0n@ld’s global empire and their quest for total world domination. It's just sad that, to the rest of the world, this company is the face of American food.

Since the rest of the world seems to think all we eat here in America are burgers (and big steaks), I thought I'd do a little post on burgers. I know what you're thinking: Who wants to read a post about making burgers? Yawn. Do bear with me though. I might be able to spark a little interest yet.



At the last PDX Women Chefs and Restaurateurs meeting, I met the lovely Bev who, with her husband Steve, own Powell Butte Bison Ranch. We had only a little time to chit-chat before the meeting, but before I left I took several pages of information about the ranch, the animals and the owners. As I was reading Steve’s statement explaining why he decided to pursue his dream of having a bison ranch, I was struck by a phrase he used: America’s original red meat…

Something about that phrase just struck me. America's original red meat. In other words, a truly American food. Yet, I'd never even tasted bison before!

The bison raised at Powell Butte Bison Ranch are 100% grass-fed. The meat is also USDA inspected, which insures you are getting a safe, properly handled product.

Until very recently, I knew nothing of bison, except that it sustained Native Americans during a time when both they and the animals lived freely across North America. But that seemed like a long-gone era. I’d never considered bison a modern day food. I guess I should have been paying more attention because bison is making a comeback. After doing a little research and sampling the meat, I’m a believer. Not only does it have a robust flavor not completely different from beef, but it’s healthier. For starters, it’s a lot leaner and has less cholesterol. Since bison are almost always grass-fed (or primarily grass-fed then finished on grain), the meat is packed with nutrients from its green diet. Naturally raising these animals also means no hormones or antibiotics often found in conventionally raised cattle.

And did I mention it’s got a wonderful flavor? I don’t know why I expected it would taste gamey, but it didn’t at all. Because bison is lean, I was afraid the burgers would be dry, but they weren't. There were some suggestions about adding in some extra fat by mixing in some cheese or additional oil into the ground meat. While these are good suggestions, I’m pretty much a purist when it comes to burger preparation. All I ever add is salt (don’t be skimpy!), pepper and a few healthy splashes of Lea and Perrins, then grill or fry until medium. That’s it. I’ve found this minimalist approach makes the simplest, most delicious burgers, whether beef, lamb or bison.

If you’re interested in purchasing 100% grass-fed bison raised right here in Oregon , I encourage you to contact Powell Butte Bison Ranch at powellbuttebison@gmail.com. They will gladly give you more information about their bison, how they sell it (quantity, pricing, time of year, etc) and the other products they offer.




I'm submitting this post to Regional Recipes, where the spotlight is on American food. The hosts this time are the girls behind [eatingclub]vancouver. Check their blog on the 20th of this month for the round-up. It will be interesting to see the different submissions, although I wouldn't be surprised if there are more than a couple burgers :-)

17 comments:

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Bison tastes like beef to me. :)

Ostrich is a good red meat too.

Darlene said...

WC, it's very similar to beef, but less beefy in the taste. We might not have been able to tell the difference but we did a side by side taste test with burgers. It wasn't a huge difference, like what you might find with beef and lamb. We liked both.

I've heard that ostrich is a good red meat as well, but I've yet to try it. It's on the list, if I ever find it!

Amanda Oborne said...

The photo of your burger is gorgeous Darlene! I'm getting hungry - maybe I'll make some of these for dinner tonight...

Darlene said...

Thank you, Amanda! It tasted very good :-)

Mary said...

I've never had bison or ostrich! This was a great choice for American food, Darlene. I agree that good beef or bison that's destined for burger buns needs nothing but salt and pepper. That's why I haven't won any burger contests!

Payal said...

Hi dp, I came across your blog last week while searching for Asian noodle recipes. Never tried bison so that's on the list to try now. Are those caramelized onions on top of the burgers?

Darlene said...

Payal, yes! caramelized onions and blue cheese. My current favorite toppings. Hubby says the only thing missing is bacon :-)

Manggy said...

Yeah, I did hear that bison meat is much healthier (in part because of being grass-fed and all, instead of grains which most cows are fed). Actually, if I were to participate, my main fear would be people thinking, no one wants to read a post about apple pie! Ha ha ha :)

Darlene said...

Manggy, to be honest, I'd love a post about apple pie. I haven't found a recipe or technique that produces a stellar pie. They always come out so-so. I'm wondering if it's the apples, technique (pre-cook vs uncooked apples), or what???

bb said...

I love bison meat, too. great to be reminded how good it is. I'm getting mine, especially with our spectacular 'queing weather coming up this weekend....finally!!
That is a mouth watering pic btw, and I have to agree with hubby, re: everything is better with bacon!

Mrs. L said...

They sell bison in the Safeway stores around here. It makes excellent burgers. And I agree with the hubby...add bacon!

Had not heard about your Regional Recipes. Sounds like a great event. I'll be looking to participate next month!

Darlene said...

bb, my in-laws haven't tried it either, so I'm going to grill up some this weekend before they leave. So looking forward to the upcoming warm weather.

Mrs. L, Please do join us for Regional Recipes! The more the merrier! eatingclub vancouver will be announcing the next region when they do the round-up.

Pam said...

I've never had bison! What a perfect choice for "American".

Joanne said...

I've never had bison but have been meaning to...that and ostrich. I need to convince my parents to buy some while I'm home because it's too expensive for my college-student wallet. These look really yummy though!

Lo said...

We LOVE bison, and I think it makes the best burgers (also not bad as a meatball!). Kudos for doing this up right for the American food round-up!

I had an ostrich burger at a restaurant once -- and, although a bit more dry than beef or bison, it tasted great. I'd highly recommend if you're going to try another "exotic" burger :)

Darlene said...

Joanne, if you walk into Whole Foods and buy bison, it is more expensive than beef. However if you order a quarter or a half, it's a lot more economical. Of course, you'd need the freezer space and for a college student, that's not very practical :-) If I didn't already have a freezer full of beef I'd be trying to convince my friends to go in on a quantity.

Lo, thank you! I was having a hard time coming up with something "American". The food is so diverse it's overwhelming. Then I just happened to meet Bev (and her daughter) of PBBR and the idea pretty much came together quick.

Payal said...

Hi Darlene, I would have added the bacon, too - lol!!