The roast. Simple. Satisfying.
This dish arrived with European settlers to American shores from France in the form of boeuf à la mode. Today, its place is firmly established in American cooking, gracing dinner tables as a beloved source of comfort food.
At its essence, the roast is a braised piece of tough meat. While it isn’t a staple of fine dining, it exists in hundreds, maybe thousands of iterations developed by home cooks all over the world. Most recipes – like the kind you may remember from childhood – are served from a simple crockpot, usually with potatoes and carrots in the Yankee style tradition.
Elements of a successful roast are simple: a good searing on all sides of the roast before cooking, a generous braising liquid, a mix of aromatics, spices, and sometimes vegetables. Slow cooking rewards you with fork-tender meat, aided by the breakdown of connective tissue, making each bite an almost melting treasure on your tongue.
Pot roast is synonymous with Sunday dinner. It’s a dish that sparks connotations of Norman Rockwell nostalgia – of families gathered around a humble meal. But this dish is evolving beyond the Sunday table thanks to new interpretations, like this Indigenous take on the classic.
This recipe, which features the Native American bison, a sacred animal to Indigenous people like the Kiowas, pairs well with seasonal cranberries and makes a beautiful choice for a holiday dish or a unique main dish for a special occasion.
American bison which once numbered in the millions were nearly hunted to extinction by white settlers for sport and to destroy the Native American food source in an effort to force tribes into submission. As few as only 100 remained in the late 1800s. Thanks to conservation efforts, these culturally important animals are enjoying a resurgence and return to Indigenous cuisine.
The buffalo was the animal representation of the sun, the essential and sacrificial victim of the Sun Dance. When the wild herds were destroyed, so too was the will of the Kiowa people; there was nothing to sustain them in spirit.-Unknown
Bison meat is popular because it is a leaner meat than beef and does not have as much fat as you will find in a typical roast. Still, it will become very tender when braised for 6 to 8 hours, but with less of an unctuous texture than a beef roast. Enhance its mild flavor with a hearty homemade beef or bison stock. The tartness of cranberries cooks down to provide a bright sweetness that is not overpowering. The addition of chipotle powder or fresh peppers balance the sweetness of the berries with heat and a cup of red wine will add unexpected depth.
Serve in an elegant dish and garnish with fresh herbs. It will go nicely with sides like a tangy squash mash or a salad of regional, leafy greens and a simple vinaigrette.
Cranberry Bison Pot Roast
- 1 ½ lb Bison pot roast (check Whole Foods for bison pot roast)
- 1 quart Beef or bison stock (preferably homemade)
- 2 cups Fresh cranberries
- 1 tsp Cumin powder
- 1 tsp Chipotle powder
- 1/4 cup Lime Juice
- 2 to 3 tsps Sea salt
- 1 tbsp Agave nectar (sub brown sugar or honey if needed)
- 2 Minced red chilies (deseeded and diced)
- 1 cup Merlot or Shiraz
- Sear roast on all sides in a hot pan. Deglaze with a tbsp of wine or red wine vinegar and add fond and pan juices to braising liquid. Make sure you immerse meat entirely in liquid. Cooking time will vary but a slow cook on low heat for 8 hours will yield the best results. Cranberries may be added during the last two hours of cooking to avoid overcooking the berries. Best served the next day so flavors can develop more fully.