I am not what you would call a meat eater. I can't quite call myself a vegetarian either, though I was up until recently. I eat plenty of fish, small amounts of chicken, and practically no red meat. But, I married a Colombian, which means along with for better or worse and richer or poorer, my vows also included a promise to cook red meat, at least occasionally.
I was gazing through the glass counter at the butcher for a nice cut of lamb or beef, but I unexpected stopped in front of an animal of a different color – buffalo. I remembered reading about the health benefits of buffalo, and how it had far less fat and cholesterol than beef and more iron and B-12, so I grabbed a 1/2 pound of ground meat and headed to Berkeley Bowl to pick up the fixings for buffalo burgers.
When I got home it bothered me that I had no idea where the buffalo (bison, actually) was from, so I called Ver Brugge Butcher in Rockridge, and the man who answered told me it was from South Dakota. So much for eating locally, but at least I supported my neighborhood butcher shop, and this was a purchase I did not plan on making often. Sorry Alejandro…
I used a Master Heavy Cast pan that I bought at an antique flea market to cook them up. It was my first time using this odd shaped contraption, and while it was a bit cumbersome, it got the job done. Before cooking the meat I added some chopped onion, salt, pepper and extra-virgin olive oil to give it a little moisture and flavor, and split it into two patties without working the meat too much. I grilled up some brioche for the bun, and topped it with roasted tomatoes, arugula from my garden, and manchego cheese.
Instead of potatoes, I picked up some yucca root, or cassava, and roasted it along with a couple of baby carrots. If you’ve never tried yucca, it tastes similar to a potato, though it’s heartier and has a tropical, almost coconut-like feel. Before you cook it, remove the waxy peel and boil it for about 20 minutes until soft. Then, cut it into rounds or strips and roast until it turns a nice golden brown. I’m not big on frying yucca, as most recipes tell you to do. It’s obviously not as healthy and it ruins the earthy texture that makes it so appealing.
Ingredients for Buffalo Burger with Roasted Yucca:
½ pound of ground Buffalo
½ loaf of Brioche, split into 2 buns
Handful of arugula
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 pound of yucca (about 4 pieces - look for the longer, skinny ones)
1 few baby carrots extra-virgin olive oil salt and pepper
1/2 cup shredded Manchego
First the yucca:
Preheat the oven to 435F
Put a big pot of water on to boil. Using a very sharp knife or vegetable peeler, remove the tough, waxy outer skin of the yucca. Boil it for about 20 minutes or until they feel soft when you test them with a fork. When they’re done, remove them with tongs and let cool. Then, cut them into thick slices or thin strips, whichever you prefer, and lay them out in a single layer on a foiled baking sheet. Top with a generous swirl of olive oil, and a good amount of salt and pepper, and use your hands to toss so every piece is seasoned. Roast for 40 minutes total, and flip them after 20. I threw the carrots in whole with the yucca after 20 minutes.
Start the meat while the yucca is cooking:
Turn the meat out into a glass bowl, and add the chopped onion, one tablespoon of olive oil, a healthy pinch of sea salt and a few grinds of pepper. Mix together with your hands to combine, and split the meat into two patties.
Preheat a cast iron pan and add a tablespoon of olive oil. When hot, add the patties and cook for about 4 minutes on each side. The cooking time will vary depending on how thick your patties are, and how you like your meat. These turned out medium, with just a slight tinge of pink.
I used a grill pan to cook the brioche, and instead of olive oil I added a small amount of butter to each slice before cooking. Grill on one side for about 3 minutes, then flip and add the shredded cheese, tomatoes and arugula, and cook for another 3 minutes.
Assemble the burger, and serve with the roasted yucca and a side of hot sauce, chimichurri, aji or condiment of your choice.
Where I shopped:
Ground Buffalo: Ver Brugge in Rockridge, Oakland
Yucca and Manchego: Berkeley Bowl
Carrots: Temescal Farmers' Market