August 6, 2010

Buffalo Meatloaf – Buffalo, the Better Beef ?

When we go to restaurants or cook at home we love to try out new things. We always like to explore new dishes and ingredients. Even when we cook the same dish multiple times, e.g. beef bourguignon, we hardly ever use the same recipe. One restaurant we liked a lot for its vast creativity was the Better Half Bistro in San Diego. Part of the creativity also included the chef’s openness towards many scarcely used kinds of meats like ostrich, elk, alligator and buffalo.

Especially buffalos are very interesting because it was historically once one of the main food sources of this part of the world. Before any conquistador ever came over the Atlantic the buffalo was of high importance to Native Americans. Every part of the buffalo was used as a source for food, weapons, shelter and clothing. But the buffalo was also an important part of the spiritual world of Native Americans culminating in the “White Buffalo” which are considered sacred leaders of the herds. Unfortunately once white settlers came here it didn’t take long to nearly extinct this animal. Where once more than 60 million buffalos roamed the plains, by 1900 only 300 animals remained. Buffalos were hunted because of the interest in the hides and the tongues (considered a delicacy) but also for political reason as General Philip Sheridan said: “The hide hunters were doing more to settle the Indian question than the entire Army had done in thirty years, by destroying the Indians' commissary”. Thanks to the appointed warden of Yellowstone, Charles J. Jones, the conservation efforts were successful and by now about 220,000 buffalos are in the US.

Buffalos are not only interesting because of their history but also for its unique meat quality. They contain less calories, fat and cholesterol than beef, pork or chicken. And at the same time more iron and vitamin B12 than its “competitors”. In addition, their environmental factor is also favorable compared to commercial beef since they are generally grass-fed, require less water and are also less prone to illness which means they need hardly any antibiotics.

We had eaten buffalo before in restaurants but had never cooked with it. So when we were recently contacted by a PR company if we were interested to test some buffalo meat from Whole Foods we took the opportunity “by the horns” and started looking for the best recipe. In the end we decided to go with some comfort food – buffalo meatloaf.

We used a rather classical recipe by adding some diced onion, carrot and celery as well as Panko bread crumbs. For flavor enhancement we also included ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. We were quite happy with the result – a very tasty meatloaf which had a more pronounced, stronger flavor than beef with some additional sweetness. We also roasted some tomatoes and shallots with the meatloaf, and since it is tomato season they had a lot of natural sweetness which went well together with the buffalo. As sides we choose more classical German variations – mashed potatoes and pickled red cabbage with its mild sourness were a good balance for the dish.

Heat two teaspoons oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook for seven minutes until vegetables are softened and transfer to large bowl. Preheat oven to 375 F.

Mix Panko crumbs, parsley, egg, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper with vegetables. Add buffalo meat and mix all ingredients with hands.

 Form oval loaf out of mixture and place onto an oiled pan.

Mix tomatoes and shallots with one teaspoon oil and salt and pepper. Scatter vegetables around meatloaf.

Bake in oven until internal temperature of meat loaf reaches 160 F (around 65 minutes).

Place meatloaf and vegetables on platter, cover with foil and let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile add water to the pan and bring the water to boil on a stovetop. Deglaze pan by stirring and scraping brown bits for a minute. Filter sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a pot. Serve meatloaf with tomatoes, shallots, sauce and other sides.

Recipe adapted from “Gourmet Cookbook”

Serves 6

1 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
50 g (2 oz.) Panko bread crumbs
(1/2 cup) flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
900 g (2 lbs.) ground buffalo
4 shallots, cut into wedges
7 tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges
120 ml (1/2 cup) water


Melissa said...

delicious... thanks for the recipe!

Cape Cod, MA


Melissa - thanks, we hope you will enjoy the buffalo meatloaf

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