Saturday, 9 August 2008

A Different Steak Dinner

I say, it's been some time since I updated this blog! Part of the reason has been that I hadn't tried any restaurants yet that are worth writing about, and part of the reason has also been that I hadn't tried cooking anything new lately. However, today during my grocery run an impulse to try cooking something I hadn't cooked before got the best of me, and I bought myself a bison T-bone steak.

Though wild American bison numbers today are nowhere near the level before European settlement of the Prairies, the prevalence of bison farming has made the consumption of bison possible. Bison is considerably leaner than beef, and therefore one can't overcook it in order to maintain tenderness. My steak perchance was cut about 3/4" thick, which the supermarket in which I bought the steak suggested that I should cook no more than 4-5 minutes per side. My intuition from grilling beef steaks advised me to put the stove heat to a medium-high setting, and it certainly helped bring the bison steak to a nice medium level.

I also was compelled to buy a bunch of beets. Coming in no more than threes, the batch of beets caught my attention this time for not only the large size of the beets themselves but also the length of the greens. Armed with these two major ingredients, I made myself a steak dinner this evening.

After cutting the greens loose I wrapped each beet in aluminum foil and put them in a 400-degree oven for an hour. In the meantime I cut the greens to more bite-sized lengths, later sauteeing the stalks first in olive oil and sliced garlic for a couple of minutes under medium-high heat before adding the more tender leaves to cook a few minutes more until wilted. For flavour I just added some freshly ground pepper and chicken powder; stock would've meant the greens would've been drowning in too much liquid.

With the bison steak I patted it dry and sprinkled both sides with coarse salt and ground pepper before cooking it over medium-high heat in my cast iron pan. Once the steak was cooked I set it aside, lowered the heat to medium, added a tablespoon of butter to the pan (and a dash of olive oil to minimize the chance of the butter being burnt) and sauteed ~100g of sliced shiitake mushrooms with one sliced shallot, sprinkled with a dash of salt and pepper. Once the mushrooms were virtually cooked I added a cup of Jackson-Triggs 2005 Okanagan Estate Merlot with a tablespoon of flour already mixed in it; I've personally had better experience thickening the sauce this manner than by adding flour into the pan directly and trying to stir like mad to make the flour blend with the liquid.

As the sauce thickened and the alcohol was burning off I added a few splashes of chicken stock to make sure that it didn't get too thick, but in the end had to add a bit of chicken powder to enhance the flavour. By this time the beets were ready, and after peeling one of them by hand (the skin falls off more easily once cooked) I cut it up into cubes and tossed it into some mixed baby greens and sprinkled it with some honey balsamic dressing for my starting salad.

The bison steak itself was decently tender and had a flavour that, though similar to beef, is still quite distinct. It definitely felt less greasy in the mouth than a beef steak, and the bison meat grain felt finer than that of beef. Of course, bison will still be considred as a treat in my pad as it costs considerably more than beef, but it is definitely a nice and potentially healthier alternative to beef that we so easily find in our supermarkets.