American bison are an important part of the prairie ecosystem and after a decline almost to extinction around the end of the 19th century, today there are many ranchers working hard to bring them back. I enjoy cooking and eating bison (sometimes referred to as buffalo).
The brands I've tried thus far have all been grass fed, lean, raised in a more sustainable manner and well, delicious. You may be able to find ground bison at your supermarket and it's pretty easy to use in recipes that call for ground beef. Bison steaks however are another story.
Because most bison is grass fed, it's leaner, like grass fed beef. Considered a highly nutrient dense food, it's lower in calories, fat and cholesterol than even chicken, it has 40% more protein than beef and is high in iron, omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E. Without rich marbling, it needs more tender loving care. Wild Idea Buffalo recently sent me some samples of their products.
Their ranch is located in South Dakota between the Black Hills and the Badlands National Park and their herd is raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones. I knew immediately what I wanted to try with the New York strip loin steak. An extremely lean piece of meat, I knew I would cook it quickly, searing to get some nice color and flavor, and serving it very rare. Because it is so lean, it's particularly good paired with something rich, like avocado.
I got my inspiration from a Martha Stewart recipe, Beef Tacos with Avocado and Radish Salsa. My adaptation is very close to the original. Here's what I did differently. I used bison instead of beef and I used a lot less of it! I rubbed the steak with oil and just sprinkled it with both cumin and chile powder. I used fresh jalapenos instead of picked ones and I added scallions. Most importantly I made my own tortillas.
Please, do yourself a favor. Buy a tortilla press and a big bag of masa harina (Maseca is a good and easy to work with brand) and never settle for store bought tortillas ever again.
Bison Tacos with Avocado and Radish (adapted from Everyday Food, Martha Stewart)
Makes 6 tacos
10 ounces bison strip loin steak
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
4 radishes, diced
2 green onions, sliced
2-3 tablespoons cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, diced, more or less as desired
6 small corn tortillas, preferably homemade
Allow the steak to come to room temperature. Pat it dry with paper towels then rub it with a just enough vegetable oil so it is glossy, but not slick. Sprinkle all sides with chile powder and ground cumin. Heat a cast iron skillet. Sear the meat 3 minutes on the top and bottom and then another 2-3 minutes on the other two sides (loin is almost square shaped). Allow to cool 10 minutes then slice thinly.
Make salsa by combining the diced avocado, radishes, green onions, cilantro and jalapeno. Slice the limes in half and squeeze them over the salsa, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, gently mix then taste. Adjust seasoning as you see fit. Heat the tortillas, top with slices of steak and salsa.