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Filet Mignon — Bison-Style

As a kid frequenting Sizzler with my parents (yes, the Food Gal did haunt that establishment back in the day), my Dad would always order a filet mignon for me.

Because it was smaller than the other cuts on the menu, it was the perfect size for a smaller eater. It was always tender, too, a good choice for a kid who didn’t like chewing too much.

As I got older, and started cutting back on the amount of red meat I ate, filet mignon still popped up in my diet, but much less frequently. As my taste buds changed, I started enjoying it less, too, because it was always a little lacking in the flavor department, if you know what I mean.

Enter filet mignon made from bison. (Not to be confused with buffalo, which are a whole different species, even though the two terms are commonly used interchangeably.)

Before Northern Europeans settled North America, there were upwards of 70 million bison on the continent. But by 1889, after overzealous slaughtering, less than 1,000 bison remained. In 1905, the American Bison Society was formed to protect the animals from extinction. Today, thanks to efforts from ranchers, bison number more than 350,000.

Two such bison ranchers are Ken Klemm and Peter Thieriot, otherwise known as the Buffalo Guys (see what I mean about interchangeable terms?). Their herd of about 500 bison graze in northwest Kansas. They also contract with other ranchers in Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Montana. Together, they sell ramge-raised, hormone-free, antibiotic-free bison meat in stores nationwide and on the Web.

Leaner than beef, buffalo meat even has fewer calories and less fat (including saturated) than skinless chicken breast. It also has more iron than beef, pork or chicken.

The Buffalo Guys were kind enough to send me a sample of their New York strip, filet of sirloin, ribeye, and filet mignon. The hubby, aka Meat Boy, grilled the steaks until medium rare. Because the meat is so lean, you don’t want to cook it beyond that.

The buffalo meat was supple, but it does require more chewing than beef. Meat Boy is admittedly an avowed Beef Boy. While he liked the deep flavor of the bison, he still hankered for the more tender texture of beef. That is, until he tried the buffalo filet mignon.

It was the most tender of the buffalo cuts that we tried. It also is firmer than beef filet mignon, a welcome change because we both find that cut of beef too flabby at times. The flavor of the bison filet mignon is robust — sweet, mineral-y, and big tasting.

For smaller red-meat appetites like mine, it’s a perfect choice. You don’t need a huge portion in order to feel very satisfied. After just a few bites, your mouth is just filled with the flavor of the meat. Even Meat Boy, who is usually no fan of filet mignon, really enjoyed the bison one.

If you’d like to have your own buffalo experience, the Buffalo Guys are offering FoodGal readers free shipping through Sept. 7 on a $79.95 Taster Pack, plus anything else you want to add to that order. Just use the promo code, “FoodGal.”

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