I noticed a funny thing on some of my recent dinners out: Bison seemed to be thundering across more and more restaurant menus. Honestly, I wasn't sure I was ready to try it. But when my brother Andrew taunted me about my less-than-adventurous spirit at a recent meal, sibling rivalry began to smolder. A few weeks later, I let it get the best of me and ordered the bison burger at the Thomas Circle eatery Palette. I had to admit: Andrew was right. The burger was tender, rich and juicy.
As he later informed me, the red meat of buffalo is healthy as well as tasty: It has one-third the fat of beef, less cholesterol and more iron (Andrew's a med student -- he knows these things). According to the USDA, a 3-ounce portion has 143 calories, compared with lean beef's 211 calories and chicken's 190. And the ethical code of the National Bison Association keeps animal byproducts or antibiotics out of the feed. What better reason to get hooked?
(Photos Nate Lankford For The Washington Post)
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With the zeal of the newly converted I researched the many ways to prepare bison. The meat, which can be bought as steaks or ground and is only $1 a pound more than beef, can be used in any of your favorite recipes -- kebabs, tacos, chili -- but it's recommended that novices start with the grill, because the meat is super-lean and, thus, easy to overcook.
After hunting down the bison -- Whole Foods carries it, but not many other grocers do -- and practicing a basic burger recipe, I spread the good news to my friends about the all-American classic's healthy makeover. One evening I invited these bison-burger virgins to assemble on my patio for a seemingly typical backyard bash with sizzling burgers, ice-cold beer, creamy potato salad and steaming baked beans.
With a relaxing musical mix streaming from the stereo ("Girl From Ipanema," "Summertime"), everyone kicked back to enjoy the night. When the burgers were served up -- some with cheese, others with barbecue sauce, some smothered with ketchup and mustard -- the curious sank their teeth in.
The results were unanimous: Mmm, mmm good. Kelly DiNardo
1 pound ground buffalo meat
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus additional to taste)
Ground black pepper to taste
Cheese slices (optional)