One of our favorite new additions to the menu is Chef Gabe's BBQ Bison Meatloaf, and we wanted to take some time to share a little bit more about this dish and where it comes from. At Lazy Dog we develop our recipes and dishes with you, the guest, in mind. We want you to experience a wholesome, delicious, made from scratch meal, prepared with the very best ingredients available. The core ingredient of this dish hails from the Durham Family Bison Ranch in Wyoming. The ranch is family-owned and operated and they are dedicated to becoming a model of successful ranch operation. They strive to be a ranch that will be the hope of all family-owned ranches, where relationships, caring, quality of life and profit are all blended into a rewarding experience for everyone involved.
That said, we wanted to know more, and really get to the heart of their operation and learn about the family behind it all. Like the Simms Family, they have deep roots in their industry. Finding folks that are the third and fourth generation, running a family business, is rare and so special. We recently reached out to Chris Flocchini, CEO of Sierra meat and Flocchini Family Provisions, who put us in touch with his brother John, the head honcho at Durham Ranch in Wyoming. Lazy Dog's Rebecca Simms caught up with John Flocchini to learn all about the mighty bison and life on the ranch with the Flocchini family. Enjoy!
It is pretty special to be of the 3rd generation involved with the ranch. My grandfather was certainly one of my early mentors that got me excited about ranch life. So, back in the 60's and in the true spirit of entrepreneurship, the family was looking to integrate the meat business and were looking for ranches to buy. The bison ranch in Wyoming was a pretty random find as bison ranching was not part of our vision until introduced to it at that time. My father and grandfather agreed that selling bison meat likely had a future and, they went for it.
My father was born and raised into the meat business in San Francisco. We used to take our summer vacations to the ranch in Wyoming when I was growing up. It was there/then that I fell in love with the ranch. And, actually, I am the first of the family to live year-round on the ranch. We had hired outside managers until I came along. I was raised in California as well (south bay area) and, starting working my summers at the ranch around age 12. I would live with my grandparents, eating my grandmother's fine Italian cooking and, learn about ranching from my grandad. I would head back to Calif. for school in the late summer/fall.
I let my dad know when I was entering my senior year of high school that I was interested in managing the ranch for the family. He was very supportive and, helped me get my Bachelor's degree in Ag from Cal Poly, SLO. I moved to the ranch full time after that (1982).
We actually manage our resources, which includes the ranch, using Holistic Management. This encompasses sustainability to include the land base we manage as well as the human resources that we work with and, the capital that we have invested and work with. Put another way, we are managing for a stated landscape goal (the ranch land) into the future which allows us to produce a product (the bison) that will sustain the quality of life we (owners and staff) desire. Does that make sense?
Sustainability includes profitability as well. We would not last long on the land nor be able to support our staff and families if we could not make a profit. It is a key component to being sustainable. Part of our "whole" includes the communities around us and, we are committed to being active and supportive members of those communities. This helps the communities to be sustainable as well.
It is fun to be a part of a successful business and, the fact that it is with family adds a deeper dimension. We have had great models before us to emulate and, we have a great family of loving and caring individuals. It is a bonus to do this with family. Not that it does not come withoutchallenges. But, at the end of the day, our past and current family leaders have made sure we are all comfortable breaking bread together at family holiday gatherings, Sunday dinners, etc.
You will understand when you get a chance to come for a visit Rebecca!
They have a long history of being survivors. First off, they are the largest land animal to survive the last ice age in North America. Secondly, they survived disease and hunting which took them to near extinction in the late 1800's. You read where there were 1000 or less at that time. Thanks to some ranchers and early conservationists, the population turned around to where there are now upwards of 400,000 in North America.
This animal knows how to survive! Watching them in this Wyoming environment is a testament tothat as well. Whether it is how they handle the hot dry summers or, face off with the worst blizzards that the prairie can bring on in the winter, they know what to do. They are huge, athletic and majestic all at the same time.
Our current ownership on the ranch is around 3000. Most of these are breeding females and calves (mixed 50/50).
The meat was considered a novelty back then. A conversation piece if you will. With the help of the National Bison Association (NBA) and the folks in the bison meat marketing business, the conversation has changed to one of how healthy and delicious bison meat is!
There have been some historical misconceptions about bison like; they are an endangered species, or, the meat is tough, etc. Bison ranching and marketing has come a ways from the early days (1960s and 70s). Folks in the business are more educated about how to raise and market quality animals/meat.
"If you like beef, you'll love bison!"
Love to BBQ. We BBQ year-round at the ranch. 100 degrees above to -10 degrees, we are out there grilling steaks. Otherwise, braised short-ribs (or osso bucco or shanks) are one of my favorites. Great fall/winter food.
1 1/2 ounces extra bittersweet chocolate, grated
1 pound ground bison
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 small onion, diced
1 sweet red pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground ancho chile
2 teaspoons ground chipotle
1 cup water
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons grated panela
1 can crushed tomatoes (14 ounces)
1 1/2 cups red kidney beans
*salt and pepper to taste
Step 1: Turn crockpot on high.
Step 2: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sauté pan on medium-high heat. Add garlic, cayenne, ancho chile and ground chipotle. Cook until garlic has softened.
Step 3: Add ground bison and cook until no longer pink. Transfer drained meat to crockpot.
Step 4: In the same sauté pan add remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add flour, onion and red pepper. Cook until onion is translucent and peppers have softened.
Step 5: Transfer vegetable mixture to crockpot. Add water, panela, chocolate and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Step 6: Cook on high for 5 hours.
Step 7: Add red kidney beans and cook for an additional hour.
Step 8: Serve warm.
While bison is similar to beef in flavor, it has far less fat, so it needs different preparation to achieve the best results. Specific techniques vary by cut, but here are some general guidelines.
Bison requires about 1/3 less cooking time than beef. However, you don’t want to rush it. Cooking bison over a lower temperature helps maintain its moist and tender texture
Like beef, bison is best enjoyed rare to medium rare. But remember, it requires 1/3 less heat to cook. “Low and slow” is a good rule to follow as long as you don’t overcook.
Let your bison rest in a warm place for 5 to 15 minutes after cooking. Don’t cut into bison until it has rested. Cutting too soon will let the sealed-in juices escape.
For the best taste, most bison steaks and roasts should be cooked to an internal temperature of 120–140° F when taken off grill or out of oven. Trust your meat thermometer, not your eyes!
Photographs courtesy of Durham Bison Ranch