I have done some nattering here about buffalo meat, which I like very much, despite my irrational aversion to most meats not familiar to me from childhood. I think it tastes very like beef, only even better, sweeter, cleaner. Until recently, though, I'd only had the ground meat, which was all that was available to me locally. Recently, I found a "minimally processed" (whatever that means), "additive free" 2 pound buffalo chuck roast (it magically appeared at the Giant Eagle last week, who knew?), and I was eager to cook it appropriately.
A cursory search through my own library and the internet didn't produce an individual recipe that knocked my socks off, but I did glean some advice that made me a bit nervous. Everyone stressed that buffalo is much leaner and less marbled than beef. There seemed to be agreement that it should be eaten rare, and not cooked too long, or at a high heat, or it would dry out. My own idea of a (beef) chuck roast treatment is a long, slow pot roasty braising, until the meat nearly falls apart, juicy and tender. I favor chuck for beef pot roasts, because of the marbling, which keeps it juicy. I generally make it ahead, so I can chill the gravy, and lift the fat off.
"Treat it like game" and "Cook it like venison" were recurring themes. I am not so familiar with venison treatments, having reacted sqeamishly the only time I tried it. Other game (e.g. elk) I've only had in a barbeque, where the predominant flavor was spicy barbeque sauce. I checked around, and it became clear that a marinade was in order. This made sense, a tenderizing step precooking could reduce the amount of cooking/drying out time needed for the roast. So I decided to marinate it for 24 hours or so, and then pot roast it, keeping a careful eye on it, so I would stop cooking it as soon as it was tender.
This buffalo business, and the first cold, blustery day of the season called to my (admittedly childish) mind, an image of prairie folks of an earlier era, celebrating a rare game/meat meal in a snug cabin, a Laura Ingalls Wilder sort of thing. Thus it seemed that a steaming pile of mashed potatoes with lots of buffalo gravy, red cabbage coleslaw, and a generous amount of roasted root vegetables would be appropriate sides, followed up by some preserved prunes in brandy with cream. This menu allowed me to use almost all organic vegetables left from my last fall farmboxes, and my own preserves, which seemed suitable too.
Of course, the dolcetto in the marinade, left over from a dinner last week, was not so sod house-like. But it did come from the Bartolucci's Madonna Estate, an organic, dry farm, family run vineyard I visited in Carneros, in the Napa Valley a few years ago. I liked the people and I like their wine, so despite the fact that you cannot ship out of state wine to Pennsylvania, I keep, uh, well...let's just say, I still have some.
Preparatory to playing log cabin, or whatever it is I was doing (the absence of young children makes this sort of carrying on seem so much less reasonable), I marinated the roast in a covered earthenware pot in a half bottle of the wine, garlic, thyme, parsley, a little red wine vinegar, 4 mashed juniper berries, sliced carrots, sliced fennel stems, and chopped leeks, salt and peppercorns-for about 24 hours.
The next day, I preheated the oven to 300F, and soaked some dried mushrooms in a cup of hot water for about 30 minutes. I wiped out my lidded pot, and browned the roast in a saute pan, on both sides, nice and deep brown, in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. I put the roast back in the clean pot with 4 sage leaves, a sprig of thyme and one of rosemary, some parsley, salt and pepper, and several unpeeled garlic cloves.
In the leftover fat, I cooked 4 quartered slices of bacon, 2 sliced carrots, the mushrooms, and two onions, cut in thin half moons. When they got a bit brown, I added the reserved marinade, several strips of orange peel, and the mushroom soaking liquid, brought it to a boil, and cooked it down some, scraping up the sticking bits on the pan.
I poured the contents of the pan over the roast, covered that with some dampened, crumbled parchment paper and the earthenware pot lid, and set it in the oven for three and a half hours. I refrigerated the meat and juices separately, and peeled the fat off the next day. then, I strained the juices, pressing on the lumpy bits in the strainer, and made a bunch of gravy, starting with a Tbsp each of melted butter and flour, and whisking the juices in. I sliced the roast thickly, and have been repeatedly reheating slices in the gravy, and enjoying it ever since.
It's tender and it tastes awfully good, and I love the gravy. It is, however, despite the efforts, a bit dry, compared to a beef pot roast.. I'm thinking I'll chop the remaining meat up with the leftover veg, top it with the leftover mashed potatoes and have some shepherd's pie..or buffalo-hunter's pie, or whatever that would be.
Given the dryness, I think the next thing to try would be a tender cut, cooked quickly. I'll have to see what turns up in the meat department. Sorry about the lack of photo, I just didn't get around to it while it was still pretty.