The clock has been set back an hour. Most of the crimson and yellow leaves have released their grip on the hardwoods in the Oregon forests and the trees are returning to their annual deep slumber.
The weather in the Mid-Willamette Valley has turned cool and wet again. It’s the perfect weather to light a fire in the fireplace, turn on some relaxing music and cozy up to a serving of hot stew and a glass of pinot noir.
With Mom wintering in Houston, I’m craving beef, but a quick check of the freezer in the garage turns up not a scrap of beef, but buffalo instead. Two buffalo sirloin steaks and a small roast from Cascade Buffalo Ranch in Salem, vacuum-packed and buried under some chicken breasts.
I thought to myself, Buffalo stew? Why not? So off to the market I went, in search of some root vegetables to add to the stew. At the store, there were so many choices in the vegetable aisle. Carrots? Yes. Turnips? I don’t think so. Parsnips? Not this time. Leeks? Sounds good. And just as I was about to leave the refrigerated vegetable section, I spotted something odd. It was a knarly root ball, the size of a baseball. I held it to my nose, took a cautious whiff and smelled the faint aroma of celery. I looked for a sign that might indicate what it was. Celery root! Well, I figured I’ve used celery as an ingredient in beef stew before, so why not celery root? In the cart it went. A lady was eyeing me as I was trying to figure out what it was. Her face was scrunched up as she looked at me with a quzzical brow. I could tell what she was thinking…He’s going to eat that ugly thing! Yes, ma’am, and I love parsnips too.
The last thing I stopped to get was a large, sweet, yellow onion before I headed merrily on my way to the checkout stand.
But wait, you might be thinking about now, didn’t he forget to get some wine? Ah, my friend, that’s where the extra-deep hall closet beneath the stairs comes into play. Yes, behind our overcoats and the vacuum cleaner, hidden from view from company good or bad, would-be thieves and the dogs is our super-secret wine stash. A gleaming industrial Metro shelving unit that we bought in Texas and moved across the country twice, first to Baltimore and then to Salem, holds our collection of wine. In Texas and Baltimore, most of the wine in our stash was from France. Now that we’re in Oregon, the shelving unit is weighed down with mostly Oregon pinot noir and pinot gris, with a smattering of Gamay noir, some unmentionable wines from a state just south of here, and the remnants of our French passions.
I turned on the closet light and tried to decide which wine to use in the stew and which wine to serve with dinner. I think I was in there about 20 minutes and I just finally decided to pick two bottles of Willamette Valley Vineyards 2008 Pinot Noir.
Turns out it was a very good choice, both for the stew as well as to drink. I hope Jim Bernau, the founder of Willamette Valley Vineyards, doesn’t hate me for using his wine in a stew. Jim, did I mention that I really do love your wine?
Open-face Buffalo Stew Sandwich
- 8 tablespoons (120 ml.) oil
- 3-4 pounds (1,362-1,816 g.) buffalo roast or sirloin sliced into cubes
- 4 tablespoons (60 ml.) flour
- 1 large sweet yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml.) salt
- 3 leeks, white part, coarsely chopped
- 3 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 celery root, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml.) thyme
- 3 cups (720 ml.) pinot noir
- 2 cups (470 ml.) beef broth
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml.) ground black pepper
- A loaf of sourdough bread
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- Preheat oven to 325 °F.
- Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a cast-iron Dutch oven over medium heat.
- In a large bowl, toss the buffalo meat with the flour. Brown the buffalo meat in the Dutch oven, turning each piece to make sure all sides are browned, then remove the pieces to another bowl. You should brown the meat in several batches so you don’t crowd the pieces. Do not discard the remaining flour.
- Once all the meat is browned and removed to another bowl, add the remaining oil to the Dutch oven, add onions and salt, stirring until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add leeks and stir, cooking until the leeks start to soften, then add carrots and celery root, brown sugar and thyme and stir well. Add the remaining flour from the bowl you tossed the buffalo meat in, scraping the bowl with a spatula, and stirring it into the vegetables.
- Using a slotted spoon, move all of the vegetables in the Dutch oven to one side and return half of the buffalo meat to the vacant side. Scoop the vegetables over on top of the buffalo meat, and place the remainder of the buffalo meat on the vacant side. Distribute vegetables evenly over all of the buffalo meat, and add the wine and beef broth. Add the bay leaves, ground black pepper, cover the Dutch oven with the lid and place it in the oven to cook for 3 hours.
- When ready to serve, slice sourdough and place one slice on each plate, spoon stew on top of the bread and garnish with some chopped parsley.
Enjoy with another bottle of Oregon pinot noir!