There I was, holding the bowl with my left hand while I used my right hand to turn the mixture over repeatedly until the ingredients were thoroughly blended, until there were no spots of rosemary or flour, but rather the mixture was one coherent pinkish-brownish hue. I tried hard not to think about those big brown animals that dotted the Dakota plains and how the mixture in my bowl used to be part of one.
I let a little memory float past of a family vacation we took while I was in the 5th grade and, using my 110 camera, I took dozens of pictures of the wild Buffalo we saw as we made our way to Wall Drug, the Badlands, and Mount Rushmore. Those animals were about the most exciting thing on the trip, apparently. And, those were the days of not knowing, of course, whether any of your photos would turn out – and I was anxious to make sure I got at least one good shot of those peculiar animals that weren’t quite like cows and certainly were no horse. (What did we ever do before digital cameras?)
I shook off the visual of those big brown animals with matted, dangling hair, and steeled myself to finish the task at hand. I had to take this meat-flour-egg-herb-salt-sorghum-millet mixture and roll it into little balls in my hands.
This is just meat, I told myself.
Rich in protein.
And then I thought of what my mother would say if she were inside my head right now – “Lauren, stop being so silly,” I could hear her say. But, the truth is, I still get squeamish about cooking meat.
For a number of years post college, I was what I called a “flexitarian” – meaning, mostly a vegetarian unless someone else was doing the cooking. Even then, I mostly felt more comfortable eating sans animals. I think it’s something about it’s former living state, a good amount of something about livestock living conditions, something about bacteria, and probably mostly delusional. But, if you had asked me 5 years ago to cook you up some buffalo meatballs I would have called you delusional (or maybe something worse!).
Since the gluten free diagnosis, however, curiosity and my love of good food override the squeamishness. It’s like how curiosity and my love of travel override my fear of flying. I know there is something wonderful waiting for me on the other side.
And this – this buffalo adventure – was well worth it. It was amazing, in fact. It was the kind of meal that I suddenly want to make for everyone I know, to tell everyone I know, and share with all of you. It’s the kind of meal that will make me feel like a culinary genius for months.
Buffalo meatball stew
You will want to have all of your ingredients prepped and at-the-ready while making this (no chopping onions while the meatballs are browning), and it will feel as easy as pie.
For the meatballs, mix the following together in a bowl until one consistent mixture:
1 pound ground buffalo
1 ¼ tsp rosemary
1 tsp sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
¼ cup GF flour or bread crumbs (I used 1/8 cup sorghum flour
1/8 cup millet flour)
Pull small bits of the mixture and roll between your hands to make balls about 1 inch across.
Have the following ready for the stew:
1 medium onion, chopped
½ pound mushrooms, sliced
4 to 5 smallish boiling potatoes, diced into large-ish bite-size pieces
4 cups mushroom broth
1 tablespoon potato starch
¼ to ½ tsp ground mustard (to taste)
freshly cracked black pepper
Crème fraiche (or pure sour cream) for garnishing
Heat some olive oil in a large stock pot over medium to medium-high heat. Toss in the meatballs and brown on all sides (be a bit patient so they don’t fall apart on you – make sure they brown well on one side before trying to turn them).
Toss in the mushrooms and onion and stir for about a minute. Reduce heat to low and cover. Heat cook until onion and mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally.
Add the potato starch and stir. Bring heat back up to medium-high. Add mushroom broth, mustard, pepper, and potatoes. Stir to mix.
Bring the mixture to a boil for about a minute, then reduce heat to simmer and let simmer uncovered for 30-45 minutes or more, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are soft and the liquid has reduced some. If liquid begins to reduce too much for your liking, you can always put the cover back on.