If you ever hop off of Interstate 5 north of Mount Vernon and take Chuckanut Drive north as a scenic route to Bellingham (a side trip well worth taking, except when the road is closed by rockslides), you’ll pass by a number of great opportunities for local food buying. Without going very far out of your way, you can hit Slough Food for cheese, wine and salumi, Breadfarm for wonderful bread, cookies and crackers, Taylor Shellfish for oysters, Samish Bay Cheese (for cheese, obviously), and the Edison Inn for shuffleboard and a burger. Just to mention a few.
Just recently, we started noticing a bison farm out on Chuckanut, advertising meat for sale. We’d never cooked with bison, that I could think of, and weren’t really sure what it might be like. So a few weeks ago Jon was out getting us some oysters and he made an executive decision to stop at Rockin R Bison. He bought a pound of chuck steak and a pound of “bacon.”
The chuck steak was easy, we cut it thinly and seared it to make a Thai-style stirfry with bamboo shoots. It was delicious, with a strong beefy flavor but marbled enough to be tender. But what to do with bison bacon?
The first few strips I tried cooking in a skillet like pork bacon. It didn’t work particularly well – the meat was done well before the fat rendered, and the taste was very much like beef jerky – not what I really want with my breakfast. Then Jon had a brainwave – use it in a Sichuan-style stirfry, based on the dry-fried beef recipe from Fuchsia Dunlop’s book!
It worked really, really well. Well enough that I might actually consider buying bison bacon again just to make this. I got home from work as things were just finishing up, so I wasn’t involved in the cooking (other than reminding him to actually use the bok choi we had bought at the farmer’s market, instead of wondering why there wasn’t anything green in the stirfry) – so I asked him to tell me how it was done.
Here’s his explanation of how the stirfry came together. The bok choi was in little tiny fresh heads from Colony Creek Farm, and the mushrooms he refers to were oyster mushrooms from Frog’s Song Farm, which he sauteed with just a little garlic and green scallions to go on the side. The saltiness of the bacon was perfectly balanced by the greens and the mushrooms, along with some plain white rice.
So, as near as I can remember, here’s what I did.
I cut the base off of one of the baby bok choys. I cut my finger [he was using my new Shun knife from IFBC – it’s incredibly sharp]. I rinsed my finger off and got a bandage. I cut the bases off of the rest of the baby bok choys. I tossed the bok choy in the colander and rinsed them off (they were rather dirty). Next, I cut the leaf part off of the stalk part of the bok choy, then cut the leaves into strips and the stalks into short lengths. I julienned a bunch of ginger (1-1/2″ maybe?), and the white parts of two scallions (the green parts went in the mushrooms, along with some garlic). I then cut the bacon on the bias into thin strips, similar in size to the bok choy leaf strips. Finally, I mixed about a tablespoon of chile-garlic sauce with a little less than a tablespoon of black beans and the last little bit of the chile-black bean sauce (the recipe calls for 2-3 Tbsp of chile-black bean sauce).
I heated the wok, and when it was hot, I added some oil. I then dumped in all of the bacon and stir fried for ~10 min. I then pushed the bacon to one side, tilted the wok and pressed the bacon so that the oil ran down into the empty part of the wok. I stirfried the chile-black bean sauce in the oil for ~30 seconds, then added the ginger and scallions and stirfried that for another ~30 seconds. I then stirred it all up and added the bok choy, stirfrying for maybe another 2 minutes. Ta-da!