Book Alert For the past couple of weeks I’ve been reading Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch, by Dan O’Brien. He’s one of those writers who other writers rave about, but who isn’t well known to the general public, but he should be. This is a terrific book about O’Brien’s long struggle to keep his ranch afloat, and the huge leap of faith he took in the early nineties when he converted the ranch from cattle to buffalo. It’s also about the ecosystem of the great plains, and how we’ve messed it up, and the hope that by re-introducing native wild herbivores like buffalo, perhaps we can not only restore the land itself, but figure out a way to live there that makes any kind of sense at all.
Since I’m interested in the meat issue, I bought some buffalo short ribs last time I was at the Co-op. I’ll have a full report later as whether the Daube with Wild Mushrooms and Orange worked (from another essential cookbook, Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking. I have never cooked anything out of this book that wasn’t wonderful, easy, and came out exactly like I’d hoped it would. A bombproof cookbook). But I have to say, just cutting up the meat, it was clear that this is wild meat. It’s much darker than beef, a deep brownish-red, and a completely different consistency. It makes beef seem pink and mushy. And browning it up, there was none of that tallow-y scent you can sometimes get from beef. I’ll be curious to see, as I get a better source of local grass fed beef, if they’re more similar than the buffalo is to regular supermarket beef. Atr the moment, the stew is in the cool-it-off-and-skim-the-fat stage, and I haven’t decided whether we’re having it tonight or tomorrow. I’ll let you know.