Monday, February 1, 2010

Where the Buffalo Roam.........

I was lucky enough to have this for dinner the other night, the night we were glued to the State of the Union Address in fact, and I've been dreaming about it ever since (plotting strategies to get it back on my plate soon). Buffalo burgers with roasted garlic mayonnaise and baby arugula, with oven-baked polenta 'fries,' I simply cannot say enough good things about this combination. It's sublime. A few quick words on red meat in general: we love it, but we lusty carnivores don't eat much of it. Beef, that is. Knowing what we now know about the abominable state of modern agriculture and beef-producing factories, well, it makes it difficult sometimes, know what I'm saying? Every once in awhile we do give guiltily in to a good steak, but for the most part we abstain. Buffalo, on the other hand.....oh my goodness. It's like beef's more handsome older brother comes home from college for the summer and you develop an instant and unforgettable crush and beef is forgotten and all you want from then on is buffalo. It's a lot more pricy than your average pound of ground beef, but also a lot less frightening ('Food, Inc.', anyone?), and it's worth the piece of mind. Buffalo has less fat and more iron than traditional beef, and a really lovely, sweet flavor. Besides, even at several times the cost of beef, one pound isn't likely to break anyone's budget.

Prepare polenta according to instructions on package or the way mama used to make it, whichever is your bag. Personally, I like it with a little milk and chicken stock whisked in with the plain water. For this recipe, I also finished it with a handful of chopped fresh Italian parsley and some grated Swiss and a tiny bit of this maple smoked Gouda we had all but polished off (okay, you caught me, I was cleaning out the refrigerator with this one. Parmigiano would have been great, too, or Gruyère--you can just never go wrong with Gruyère!--but it's not a bad way to use up the ends of random cheeses, either), which gave the polenta an amazing, rich creamy smoky background. Spread in a baking sheet and let cool thoroughly. Be patient. After it has solidified and cooled, slice the polenta into french-fry sized strips, toss gently with olive oil, and bake at 450 degrees for about 40 minutes, turning them once halfway through the cooking to let them brown on both sides.
Polenta fry interior closeup! I don't quite know how to describe the taste and texture of these to you except, frustratingly, 'yummy'?? I for one prefer them to regular french fries, and that's a bold statement. They have this fantastically caramelized, brown crunchy exterior that gives way to a creamy interior that is just.....well, you just have to experience it for yourself. Don't forget the cheese!

For the burgers, first roast an entire head of garlic (I love a recipe that starts out with an entire head of garlic, don't you?) until it's brown and soft. Squeeze the unbelievably aromatic cloves into a bowl and mush them into a paste with a spoon. Add mayo, salt and pepper to taste, along with anything else that sounds good to you; a squeeze of fresh lemon would be good here, or you can do what I did and add a hefty plop of fancy mustard (Maine maple-champagne mustard from Whole Foods, to be exact, because I'm the kind of girl who absolutely can't resist a fancy mustard--or five--and because I thought the maple in the mustard might compliment the maple smoked Gouda I slipped into the polenta).

Briefly saute a little diced onion in about a tablespoon of butter, just until soft. Take a can of diced tomatoes, drain thoroughly, and add to the onions for a few minutes. After everything smells terrific and is starting to melt together, remove from heat and let cool. Mix tomato mixture into one pound of ground buffalo, gently and by hand. You don't need to over-mix this, just combine them. Form patties by hand (this makes about 4 large patties, but you could stretch it further if you have smaller appetites to feed) and cook according to your preferred burger-cooking method. I cooked ours in our stovetop grill pan, brushed very lightly with olive oil.
Assemble on bread of choice: bun, ciabatta, baguette slices. Spread one side generously with roasted garlic mayo, add a handful of tender baby arugula leaves, press together, and there you go! Mmmm. Buffalo.


  1. Oh my godddddd those polenta fries look to DIE for. I've never had buffalo before but that recipe sounds delicious!

  2. It really was! Buffalo has fantastic flavor and texture, I can't describe it exactly, but it's really pretty something. Try it! The tomato and onion inspiration came from a Julia Child recipe I made a few weeks ago (only that was a more classical French thing, more loaf-y with ground pork and breadcrumbs and egg), but it was a great addition--nothing like a little extra 'umami'!

    And the polenta fries......oh my goodness!!! You have to get on that ASAP. Let me know how it turns out. :)

  3. I love the name of your blog.. I love everything to do with Orange... Color and fruit. I use to be Salt addict... but am trying to kick the habbit.

    Your Polenta fries sound yummy. I am trying to think of something polenta to make this week.. well tonight.. I have a couple ideas brewing in my head.. I just hope they turn out ok.

  4. Dear Orange&Salt, your post on buffalo burger and polenta fries was most amusing. Your style of writing is incredible, and metaphorical. Loved reading it! I felt like I had stepped into Gourmet Magazine. It was so well presented, clean, photos clear and professionally positioned. Excellent copy. I shall return for another bite of this wonderful blog. Thank you for sharing.
    Cheers, Gaby
    You can always visit me at

  5. Slobber, slobber, drool. BTW, love the fancy fried grits. I'm gonna have to make some of those! Jeff

  6. heh! They basically are fancy fried grits, aren't they?? I suggest you do it, they're wonderful!