3 slices bacon, chopped
2 lbs bison stewing meat, cut into chunks
Salt and pepper
Canola or olive oil
2 T. butter
1/2 c. brandy (optional)
2 onions, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
3 - 4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 T. tomato paste
1/2 bottle dry red wine
1 T. chopped fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 lb pearl onions
2 c. button mushrooms, quartered
In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Reserve half the drippings and set the bacon aside.
Pat the bison dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Add a drizzle of oil to the bacon drippings in the pan, and cook the bison in batches over medium-high heat, until browned on all sides. Transfer to a bowl. If you like, deglaze the pot with brandy, scraping any browned bits off the bottom, and pour this jus over the reserved, cooked bison.
Add another drizzle of oil and 1 tablespoon butter to the pot and sauté the onion, celery, carrot and garlic for about 7 minutes, until they start to turn golden. Add the tomato paste, the bison and any juices that have accumulated in the bowl, and the bottle of wine. Add the thyme and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 3 hours, until the meat is very tender. Alternatively, cover and transfer the pot to a preheated oven and braise at 300°F for the same length of time.
Meanwhile, submerge the pearl onions in a pot of boiling water and cook for 1 minute; drain and run under cool water to stop the cooking. Peel off outer skins. Add to the pot of bison for the last 45 minutes of cooking.
Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet set over medium-high heat and sauté the mushrooms until they release their moisture, then start to turn golden. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir the mushrooms into the stew along with the reserved bacon; fish out the bay leaf, season with salt and pepper if necessary and serve. You can also cool the stew and refrigerate it overnight – this will improve its flavour and allow you to remove any fat that rises to the surface and solidifies. Reheat over medium-low heat on stovetop. Serves 6.