The first time I ever had bison was four years ago when I was in Indiana for a summer research program. Soon after meeting my fellow researchers, the conversation turned to food, as it often does, and one of my new friends told me that the local restaurants served bison burgers. I’d heard about bison before and was intrigued. When I expressed interest in trying a bison burger, I was instructed to order it cooked rare. He was quite insistent on that point, but I figured it was a matter of taste, and I don’t like my burgers rare, so when I ordered my first bison burger, I confidently asked for burger cooked to medium. It was utterly unremarkable. In fact, it was rather dry and tasteless. Certainly not worth five dollars more than a regular beef burger would cost. That night, I learned a valuable lesson: when a silver-haired Navajo man tells you how to eat your bison, you would be wise to listen. So, when I went to lunch a few days later, I ordered a bison burger, rare, and finally understood what all the fuss was about.
Bison is a very lean meat, so it’s important not to overcook it. After tasting my first properly cooked bison burger, I fell in love with this incredibly flavorful meat. A quick Google search revealed the benefits of eating bison. Along with being an incredibly lean source of protein, bison is rich in iron, zinc, and B vitamins, along with other vitamins and minerals. Delicious and good for me? Yes, please!
Most recipes I see for bison are for chili or burgers, so I wanted to explore other possibilities for this delicious and uniquely American meat. I’ve named this dish “Bison Boats” because the hollowed out zucchini look like boats, but if you want a fun appetizer for a party or a more substantial meal, simply change the type of veggie you stuff! Not only are these little gems delicious, but they are a great way to stretch an expensive ingredient.
The first step is to prep the veggies. I used a melon baller to hollow out the zucchini, but you can use a spoon, too. Chop up the mushroom stems and scrapings from the zucchini to add to the meat mixture. I did this mostly because I didn’t want to waste the veggies, so if you use different vegetables, don’t worry about changing the type or amount of leftovers you add.
Add the onion and other veggies to a nonstick skillet with one tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cook until the veggies get soft translucent — about 10 minutes.
Add the cooked veggies to a large bowl, along with one teaspoon of your favorite steak seasoning, one tablespoon of ketchup, one egg, the cream of tartar, and the baking soda, then use your hands to mix in the meat. Stuff the meat mixture into the prepared veggie boats and head outside to cook them.
Set the stuffed veggies on the grill, over indirect heat. Close the lid and cook for 35 to 40 minutes. The time will vary slightly, depending on how hot the fire is, but as a general rule, the mushrooms will cook the fastest and the peppers will cook the slowest.
You’re looking for the meat mixture to be about 155ºF. As you can see, these aren’t quite done.
Once they’re cooked, all that’s left to do is serve them to happy diners!
Serves 6 to 8
- 1 pound ground bison
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 teaspoon steak seasoning (I used Penzey’s Chicago Steak Seasoning)
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 10 oz package cremini mushrooms
- 3 medium zucchini
- 1 bell pepper, any color
- Saute onion with two chopped mushrooms and the chopped insides of the zucchini with a pinch of salt until soft, about 10 minutes.
- Add softened vegetables to a large bowl and allow to cool for a few minutes.
- Add egg, ketchup, steak seasoning, cream of tartar, and baking soda to the vegetables and mix well.
- Add bison and mix to combine.
- Stuff meat mixture into hollowed-out vegetables, being careful not to compact the meat as you stuff the vegetables.
- Cook the bison boats over indirect heat on a grill, either charcoal or gas, with the lid on for 35 – 40 minutes.
- Serve hot or at room temperature.