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The Chef in Charlotte: Bison tenderloin

Ah, we have a new series to inaugurate! "Quarantine Cuisine" no longer seemed quite right, since I am, for all intents and purposes, not exactly "quarantined," and neither are most. And, of course, "Summer Grilling" requires 1) summer months and 2) a grill, neither of which are with me right now! But now that I have finally gotten back into a routine of cooking in my (HUGE) new kitchen, I figured a new series was appropriate––and with wonderful alliterative qualities!––the Chef in Charlotte.

Last week I got my now monthly shipment of proteins from the wonderful Crowd Cow, a service that works with small, family farms to deliver stellar, sustainable proteins (btw, if you're interested in trying it out and getting $25 off your first order, use this code!). Crowd Cow is doing a subscription service wherein you can have a box of whatever value you like delivered monthly. This gets you free shipping and a discount, so I figured it was worth it, since I knew I'd get killer proteins, and since leaving Iowa, my protein options aren't nearly as compelling at my local market.

This month, I added salmon, halibut, scallops, bison tenderloin, ground lamb, chicken thighs, and a flank steak to my Crowd Cow box. I made halibut the other night poached in lime butter and served with shishito peppers, but when I went to photograph it, my purple "mood lighting" made the dish look rather gnarly. It was, in fact delicious.

Bison is a really excellent meat that everyone should try. It's similar to beef, but somewhat less "beefy"––it's lighter, more delicate, a shade sweeter, and much higher in iron, which gives it a sort of earthy taste. Bison is decidedly not "gamey," and is also much leaner than beef. Many health food aficionados these days are calling on folks to switch their beef consumption to bison due to its many wonderful nutrients and lower concentration of saturated fats.

I let the bison tenderloin from Crowd Cow thaw overnight in the fridge, and then when I got home from work yesterday, I coated it in ground peppercorns and salt and placed it back in the fridge for 24 hours for a fantastic dry brine. This withdraws unnecessary moisture that can leak flavor from the tenderloin and imbeds the meat with mouthwatering salinity and the essence of peppercorn. Let the bison sit out after taking out of the fridge for about an hour before cooking it. This is also a great technique for beef tenderloin!

I decided to make this a classic "meat and potatoes" sort of dinner, and found some adorable little baby potatoes at my local grocery store to make one of my favorite preparations: smashed potatoes. Start by boiling the potatoes for a while until tender, then drain and dump them on a baking tray. Smash them with a fork, breaking the skin and pressing them flat, and prepare a combination of melted butter, olive oil, and freshly minced/pressed garlic. Drizzle the mixture all over the potatoes, making sure to evenly distribute the garlic that can settle at the bottom. Then, crack some fresh sea salt (and herbs if you have them!) over the top and bake until crispy golden in the oven at 350.

Green beans are really delicious in the air fryer, so I coated them in olive oil and a bit of lemon juice and added some minced garlic. Ten minutes later, the result was tender and just barely crispy green beans. LOVE my air fryer, and I am so lucky that mama let me take it with me from Iowa!

I reverse-seared the bison, cooking at 275 for a while until getting a mid-rare reading on the meat thermometer, letting it rest, and then finishing quickly in the skillet. Once the bison is done cooking and resting, it's easy to make a delectable pan sauce with the wine you'll be pairing! Add a garlic clove or two, and some other aromatics like a thyme sprig if you have them handy, and a pat of butter, then deglaze the pan with wine. All the little delicious bits from the bison will be sopped up into the sauce, and you'll have a PERFECT pairing! Reduce a bit and serve over the tenderloin.

Delicious meal for one, and my first real "gourmet" meal in Charlotte! Now that I am getting the cooking fire in my belly once again, I'm sure I'll have more to share!

Wine to cook by: Clos de la Siete Malbec from Argentina's Mendoza wine region. An inexpensive malbec that gets killer reviews, and from a wine region (and grape!) I very much desire to get to know better. Lots of delectable berry-driven fruit, with the "cowboy" earthiness I often detect in Mendoza malbecs. Worked perfectly with the bison!

I planned to go to Mendoza in December, but seems that is off! Sigh... to travel again...

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