Cook a Classic Casserole with Ethically Raised Bison
Montréal-based gastronomic meal subscription service Menu Extra prepares a champvallon with local, ethically sourced bison.
Text—Caroline R. Paquette
Eating meat is harmful to the environment. But perhaps it’s not quite as simple as that?
A 2019 IPCC report points to the link between meat consumption — and the amount of resources its production requires — and climate change. Our eating habits clearly have a big impact on the environment, but we don’t have to cut out meat entirely.
We may consider meat to be a gastronomic ingredient to enjoy from time to time. It’s a way of taking a meal that has become too overused for the planet to support and making it sacred again.
One way of doing this is by turning to small, ethical farms, which put their heart into their work and have a story to tell. This is the path taken by Menu Extra, a meal subscription service that celebrates the art of cooking by creating ready-to-bake gourmet meals you can enjoy from the comfort of your home … or the cottage.
One afternoon in March, three of the four co-founders of the platform — chefs Camilo Lapointe-Nascimento (also the creator of Camilouichef) and Francis Blais, as well as sommelier Alexis Demers — left the city, rolled down their windows, and headed northeast, all the way to Terre des Bisons.
Founded in Rawdon in 1994 with just three bison, the 400-acre family farm has since grown its herd to 125, contributing to the conservation of the species along the way. Jean-Philippe Demontigny, who co-owns the farm with his parents, encourages visitors to come and see for themselves the care with which the meat is produced.
Two kilos of diced game and a few hundred metres later, the trio arrived at BESIDE Habitat, where a wood stove awaited them. In the kitchen, with its walls of light pine and large windows, Camilo and Francis unpacked their bags of provisions, got out the cast iron pans, and spread out their knives. Their mission: to prepare a champvallon — a classic French casserole — with ethical meat from Terre des Bisons.
Champvallon with bison meat
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 2 kg [4 1/2 lbs.] osso bucco or bison cubes (ideally bought directly from the farm at Terre des Bisons)
- 5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 3 mm thick
- 4 medium onions, diced
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 tsp. dried rosemary
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 L [4 cups] game broth
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 175 °C [350 °F], or light the fire in a wood stove at the cottage.
- In a pan, heat 1 Tbsp. butter over medium-high heat.
- Sear the bison, seasoning with salt and pepper as it cooks.
- Don’t overfill the pan so as to ensure a nice colour.
- Let the seared meat rest on a plate.
- In the same pan, heat remaining butter over medium heat.
- Caramelize the diced onions over low heat. Set aside.
- In the bottom of a 3 L [3 quart] Dutch over, lay out half the potatoes in a rosette pattern. Add salt and pepper.
- Add the garlic and half the onions.
- Next, add the seared bison.
- Add the rest of the onions.
- Finish by laying the rest of the potatoes on top in a rosette pattern. Add salt and pepper.
- Pour in the game broth, thyme, and rosemary.
- Place the champvallon in the oven and cook for 3 hours.
- Go for a snowshoe walk or hike while it cooks.
- Finish cooking at 230 °C [450 °F] for 15 minutes to brown the potatoes.
- Serve and enjoy with a glass of Québec riesling.