Last summer Tony, Gio and I made it our personal goal to visit as much of North Dakota as we could in one season. We called our adventure “Lost on the Prairie,” and traveled someplace new almost every weekend from Memorial Day through September.
As former cruise ship hotel officers, Tony and I traveled the world together for nearly a decade and set foot on all seven continents. We’ve been to some of the world’s hidden corners, from remote mountains in Indonesia, to the high Norwegian Arctic, the Amazon, and even Antarctica. So it came as a terrific surprise that one of the premiere travel experiences of our lives happened here, in one summer, in North Dakota.
Maybe it was the fact that we were discovering so many things for the very first time. As typical Fargoans, we have been prone to head east to the lakes or Twin Cities of Minnesota, or north to Hector International Airport. In fact, our travel experience west of Fargo was pretty much limited to West Acres. I grew up believing that all of North Dakota was flat like Fargo, with the exception of Bismarck and the Badlands.
Maybe it was that we were on this quest as a family, spending precious time together in a way we hadn’t for a long time. Stepping out of our comfort zone to welcome new experiences, which wasn’t always comfortable. I remember Tony’s first time (ever!) driving down a gravel road through the lovely and remote Sheyenne State Forest, and I know he was having all kinds of urban-myth flashbacks.
But, true to most stories about North Dakota, it was the people we met who really made our adventures so memorable. People like Dick Ruby of Milnor, ND, who welcomed us to the Ruby Buffalo Ranch last summer as if we were old friends.
Dick’s buffalo ranch is tucked into in one of the most pastoral settings you can imagine, complete with a windmill, a large pond for water, lots of open pasture, and a beautiful perennial garden nurtured by his lovely and creative wife, Donna.
Dick showed us all around his ranch, and even took us out to the pasture to watch the bison feed. There wasn’t even a gravel road here, just deep grooves rutted into tall grass – Tony loved it. Dick, a regular “buffalo-whisperer,” was eager to share his passion for these impressive animals, and we even had the opportunity to pet an actual bison, his beloved “Norma.”
Dick sells his bison to the same cooperative from which we purchase our bison steaks for Sarello’s. After visiting his ranch last year, we knew we had to add bison to our menu, and it’s become almost as popular as our beef selections.
Similar to beef but slightly sweeter, bison is available in the same steak cuts or as ribs, roasts, shanks, or ground for burgers. Bison has a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness and is full of protein, iron and omega-3 fatty acids.
This Fourth of July, we’ll be grilling up America’s original red meat in the form of bison sirloin steaks, and serving it with Horseradish Cream Sauce, Marilyn’s Easy Potato Salad, Grilled Vegetables, Tuscan Bean Salad and Rhubarb Granita. We’ll also have two new sauces to represent America’s melting pot, inspired by the lush, green herbs in our garden: Argentinian Chimichurri and Sicilian Salmoriglio, which also go great with grilled beef, chicken and seafood.
Both sauces feature fresh parsley and oregano, but differ in flavor and texture. The salmoriglio sauce is loose, lemony and light, while the chimichurri is spicier, brighter and thicker, but not as thick as a pesto.
As a true North Dakotan, I have a fondness for the Heinz 57 and A-1 sauces I grew up with, but I’ve come to love these lighter options just as much. From our home to yours, we wish you a happy, safe and delicious holiday!
Local sources for Bison:
At the lake:
Ketters Meat Market in Frazee generally stocks steaks, roasts and bison burgers.
Meats by John and Wayne generally stock bison roasts, steaks and ground bison in their freezer
Hornbacher’s generally stocks ground bison, and will order other cuts as requested.
If you know of other sources, please tell us so we that can post them on our blog. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
TIPS FOR GRILLING BISON (OR BEEF)
- Season the meat with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides
- Make sure the grill is clean, hot and lubricated with olive or vegetable oil
- Grill over direct heat and cook steaks evenly on both sides
- Bison and other lean cuts of red meat are best when cooked to medium-rare, 130-135 degrees
- Use a meat thermometer to ensure your desired temperature is achieved
- Always allow the meat to rest for five minutes before carving so the juices do not run out
TONY’S SICILIAN SALMORIGLIO SAUCE
Juice from 2 fresh lemons
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
¼ cup fresh oregano, stems removed, finely chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried)
1 pinch kosher salt
1 pinch black pepper
1 handful fresh parsley, stems removed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons warm water
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
In a mixing bowl, whisk all ingredients together except the olive oil. Add the oil in a slow steady stream, whisking continuously until the mixture is emulsified. Best when served fresh and slightly warm, but okay to rest at room temperature for a few hours before serving. Store leftover sauce in refrigerator for up to two days.
Tony uses this as a finishing sauce on top of the meat just before serving, but it can also be used as a marinade or basting sauce.
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
½ bunch of cilantro
¼ cup fresh oregano (1 tablespoon dried)
6 – 7 garlic cloves
¼ cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Remove leaves from herb bunches and discard stems. Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse repeatedly until well-blended but chunky.
Because of the vinegar content, this sauce stores well and can be refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen for up to two months. Use small containers or ice cube trays for freezing.