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Since picking up a copy of Cooking Slow a few weeks ago, I’ve thought a lot about — and reconsidered — the way I cook.

The book’s thesis is simple, and makes perfect sense:  meat cooked at (or just slightly above) its doneness temperature will never become overcooked, no matter how long it cooks.  Of course, cooking at low temperatures requires much longer cook times than those to which we’re accustomed.  A roast chicken, for example, would take 6-8 hours in a low oven, rather than the 1.5-2 hours our mothers taught us.  The patience of a slow cook is rewarded, then, with perfectly-done meat — no leathery char on steaks that are still bloody in the middle, no dry chicken wings when the breast is still raw.

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Another advantage to cooking slow:  being able to render subprime cuts of meat into a luscious steak that melts like butter on the tongue.  So when I found a sale on bison chuck at my local butcher, I thought it would be a good excuse to experiment with ultra-slow cooking.

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Bison is done at 160°F.  So I cooked at 170°F to account for oven mis-calibrations.  The recipe takes 6-10 hours to cook through, depending on your desired donneness and the size of your chuck.  I set it to cook overnight, and it was lovely to wake up to the aromas in the morning.  But if you’re wanting to prepare your bison for dinner, put it in the oven in the morning to avoid having to re-heat.

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I adapted a coffee-cinnamon brisket recipe from Cooking Slow, made a few of my own additions, and the result was extraordinary.  The coffee-cinnamon crust is seared onto the bison before the slow cooking, and it manages to remain in tact and slightly crisp.  The sharpness of the coffee is smoothed by the earthy bison and warm cinnamon, creating a soulful and cozy piece of meat.  The plums and molasses in the gravy — and the swig of brandy — melt into a rich caramel that wraps around the bison like a baby swaddle.  The result is an intricate, thoughtful, summer-autumn transition dish that simultaneously showcases all five tastes.

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Coffee & Cinnamon Encrusted Bison with Brandied Plum & Molasses Sauce

Makes 3 servings | Start at least ~12 hours ahead | Adapted from Cooking Slow

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lb bison chuck roast
  • 2 Tbsp finely-ground coffee
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • olive oil
  • 3 cipollini onions, halved (can sub 1 med-large yellow onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 C vegetable broth
  • 1/4 C cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp brandy
  • 1/4 C + 2 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
  • 2 C quartered, pitted plums

Directions

  1. Rinse bison and pat dry.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine coffee, cinnamon, and salt, and mix well.  Incorporate enough olive oil into the mixture such that the mixture just holds together, about 1 tsp.
  3. Rub coffee mixture onto bison.  Place bison into mixing bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but up to 24 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 170°F.
  5. Add ~2 Tbsp olive oil to a Dutch oven.  Place Dutch oven onto stove, uncovered, over medium-high heat.  Once oil is hot, place bison into Dutch oven and sear for 5 minutes on each side of the steak.
  6. Remove bison steak from Dutch oven and set it aside on a separate plate.
  7. Lower heat on Dutch oven to medium-low.  If there is little to no oil remaining, add another 1/2 to 1 Tbsp olive oil.  Once oil has reached temperature, saute onions until tender and on the verge of turning translucent, about 8 minutes.
  8. Add garlic to Dutch oven and continue to saute for another minute.
  9. Add vegetable broth, vinegar, brandy, and molasses to Dutch oven.  Raise heat to medium, and bring to a boil.
  10. Remove from heat, then add bison (including drippings from the plate it had been resting on) and plums.  If bison is not almost entirely submerged in liquid, add just enough additional vegetable broth to raise liquid level to the top of the bison.
  11. Cover Dutch oven with tightly-fitting lid, then place in preheated oven.  Cook 6-10 hours; 6 hours will be medium, 10 hours quite well-done.
  12. Remove bison from Dutch oven, and let rest on a plate 5-10 minutes before slicing or shredding.
  13. To make the sauce, place remaining contents of Dutch oven over high heat.  Bring to a hard boil, and continue boiling until liquid has thickened, about 20-25 minutes.  Separate the solids (onions, plum solids) from the sauce.
  14. To serve, pour sauce over shredded or sliced bison.

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