Imagine galloping your horse into a stampeding herd of buffalo, those immense, shaggy, horned beasts which used to roam the American plains. Then imagine riding up alongside your chosen target, dropping the reins, taking aim and firing…all the while knowing that a misfire, poor balance or a misstep on your horse’s part might send you toppling down, quite likely to your death, beneath those pounding hooves. This is a pretty fair description of a buffalo hunt in the mid-19th century. It was sporting, unlike the later massacres of the beasts for their hides, and it was extremely dangerous.
Susan Magoffin wrote appreciatively of buffalo in the diary she kept as she traveled the Santa Fe Trail with her husband Samuel. “It is a rich sight indeed,” she wrote, ” To look at the fine fat meat stretched out on ropes to dry for our sustenance when we are no longer in the regions of the living animal. Such soup as we have made from the hump ribs, one of the most choice parts of the buffalo, I never eat (sic) its equal in the best hotels of New York or Philad. (sic).”
However, Mrs. Magoffin was less enthusiastic about her husband’s participating in the hunt. “Mi alma (as she refers to him in her diary) was out this morning on a hunt, but I sincerely hope he will never go again. I am so uneasy from the time he starts till he returns. There is such danger attached to it that the excited hunter seldom thinks of til it over take him. His horse may fall and kill him; the buffalo is apt too, to whirl suddenly on his pursuer and often severe if not fatal accidents occur. It is a painful situation to be placed in , to know that the being dearest to you on earth is in momentary danger of loosing (sic) his life, or receiving for the remainder of his days, whether long or short, a tormenting wound.”
Mrs. Magoffin’s anxiety for her husband was very real and natural. At the same time, she had married the sort of man who would–successfully– lead her down the rough and often dangerous road of the Santa Fe Trail and that quality of bravery and fearless living was a part of her love and admiration for Samuel. Any woman, married to such a man, will understand both her trepidation and her deep-down understanding that…he couldn’t, and she wouldn’t want him to be, any other way.
Postscript: Grilled buffalo will not suit a more formal July 4th celebration. However, it is appropriate for an out-of-doors gathering like the July 4th Dinner under the Desert Sky Menu, in which it serves as the Main Course. Certainly, there is no meat more peculiarly American and, although today it is farm-raised, it is still very, very good.
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Ingredient Note: Homemade Barbecue Sauce accompanies the Grilled Buffalo on Angel Biscuits. The sauce is served at the side and guests add as much or as little as they like. In some parts of the United States, there are bottled sauces that are the barbecue equivalent of micro-brews. If you are fortunate enough to have access to one of these, then you may want to forgo making the sauce described in Part II. However, if you are living somewhere in the world where a good bottled sauce isn’t available, the recipe in Part II below makes a good one.
Part I: Making and Grilling the Buffalo on Angel Biscuits
- 8 Angel Biscuits: A recipe for Angel Biscuits is here in a previous diplomatickitchen post.
- Homemade Barbecue Sauce: See the Ingredient Note above and the recipe in Part II below.
- 1 pound of ground Buffalo
- 1/2 cup of Extra-Sharp Cheddar, grated
- 1/2 of a medium-sized Red Onion, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon of Kosher Salt
- 2 teaspoons of Coarse-Ground Black Pepper or Steak Poivre
- Vegetable Oil
- An Outdoor Grill: The photographed meat was grilled over charcoal.
1. Mix together the ground meat, cheese, onion, salt and pepper and divide it into 8 balls. Flatten the balls into patties about 1/2-inch thick. Brush a little vegetable oil over both sides of them. (Buffalo meat is quite lean and the oil helps prevent the patties from sticking to the grill rack.)
2. Heat the grill. When the coals are ready, place the grill rack over them and allow it to heat for 5 or 10 minutes.
3. Place the rounds of buffalo on the grill rack and grill on each side for 5 minutes.
4. Serve the buffalo on Angel Biscuits and pass barbecue sauce for guests to add as they like. In the multi-course dinner outlined here, 2 rounds of grilled buffalo on biscuits is enough for 1 person.
Part II: Homemade Barbecue Sauce (for about 2 cups)
- 2 Tablespoons of Butter
- 1 medium-sized Yellow Onion, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon of finely minced Garlic
- 1 cup of Ketchup
- 1/3 cup of Cider Vinegar
- 1/4 cup of coarse-grained Dijon Mustard
- 1/3 cup of Molasses: Honey may be substituted if molasses isn’t available…but molasses is preferable for the smoky flavour it imparts.
- 1/3 cup Light Brown Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon of Hot Sauce, such as Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce
- 1 teaspoon of Coarse-Ground Black Pepper or Steak Poivre
- Salt to taste
- a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed Pot of Casserole with a Lid
1. Melt the butter over medium heat in the pot or casserole. Add the onion and cook it, stirring, until it just begins to turn golden around the edges. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minutes more, stirring.
2. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool slightly…so that the ketchup doesn’t spatter out over the stove or on you when it is added to the pot. Add the ketchup, vinegar, mustard, molasses, brown sugar, hot sauce and black pepper. Stir to mix everything together well.
3. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat. Turn down the heat so that the sauce simmers gently and cook it, partially covered, stirring from time to time, until it is thick…30 minutes is a good estimate of the time it will take for the sauce to thicken. Taste and add salt as you see fit.
4. Serve the sauce in a bowl alongside Grilled Buffalo on Angel Biscuits. Any leftover sauce freezes very well for many months and is an excellent grilling sauce for any meat.
A Note: Grilled Buffalo on Angel Biscuits with Homemade Barbecue Sauce is the Main Course of the Dinner Menu: A July 4th Dinner under the Desert Sky. The recipe for Angel Biscuits is here in this previous diplomatickitchen post. Susan Magoffin’s diary, Down the Santa Fe Trail and Into Mexico, is available online here in the openlibrary.org. The openlibrary’s copy includes the original illustrations.
An Invitation: You are invited to request suggestions from the diplomatickitchen for your own menus for any occasion by clicking on the feature ‘Ask and Tell’ here or in the Menu at the top of the page. Do you have a menu concept with a gap or two that wants filling…or perhaps you are an expat looking for ways to adapt your recipes to what is available in your temporary home…maybe you are just looking for a new way to use a familiar ingredient or would like suggestions on how to adjust quantities of a recipe from the diplomatickitchen for smaller or larger groups…Replies will be published in ‘Ask and Tell’ or sent by email if you prefer.
© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2013