Yes, I’m at it again – messing with tried-and-true favorites and likely making several traditionalists out there roll their eyes in exasperation. What’s the point in changing your standby beef and barley soup recipe? Don’t get me wrong. I still have a soft spot in my heart for beef-packed soups. However, since we’re doing this whole “Healthy Eating in 2012” thing, I thought it was time to lighten things up a little by pairing bison (American buffalo) meat with fiber-rich barley in a soup that is sure to melt the icicles off the most frigid naysayers.
Bison meat has been adopted as a popular alternative to beef in the buffalo burgers found on menus around the country and is becoming more readily available in supermarkets and warehouse stores, such as Costco. But what’s all the fuss about? What’s the big deal about bison meat?
Well, since you asked…or was that me? Well, somebody asked. So, here we go:
There’s a reason that Readers’ Digest listed bison as one of the top five foods that women should eat. Each 3.5 ounce serving of the lean meat is packed with iron, 36 percent of the daily recommended amount, to be exact. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my average intake of iron is abysmal, something I lamented about when I posted my Baked Pasta Shells with Beef, Sundried Tomatoes & Spinach. I had just started using a food tracker, which let me know how pathetic I was, ferrically-speaking (that’s going to be my new favorite iron-related phrase).
Okay, so it’s high in iron. What else? Well, bison meat also boasts high levels of protein and Vitamin B-12 and lower calorie and cholesterol counts than beef, chicken or pork. I’ve got your attention now, don’t I? Take a look at this nifty little chart to see what I mean.
Bison live and feed primarily on grasslands, spending a minimal amount of time in feedlots. According to the National Bison Association, the animals are not subjected to chemicals or hormones. What implications does this have for the consumer? Well, since we are all here because we love food, one of the primary benefits of grass-fed creatures (bison, cows, etc.) is that the meat often tastes better…in my humble opinion, that is. And, if given the choice, I will definitely choose the meat that has not been pumped full of antibiotics and hormones. Call me crazy. Of course, there are plenty of environmental implications surrounding this issue, but we’re here for soup, so I’m going to side-step those issues for the time-being.
Is bison meat priced the same as beef? Nope. It tends to be pricier than most cuts of beef. However, I’m not suggesting that you completely forego beef in favor of bison – I know I’m not. However, you may want to consider working it into your meal rotation occasionally. It’s a nice change from the usual and you just can’t beat the health benefits.
For parents out there, my kids would like you to know that they gave this soup a very enthusiastic double thumbs-up. In fact, they practically licked their bowls clean. Bison meat also works beautifully in meat fondue, cooked in boiling broth and dipped in a variety of savory sauces. See our Apres Ski feature in FoodieCrush Magazine for details on fondue (bison and cheese varieties) and accompanying dipping sauces.
Heat 3 teaspoons canola in a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add the cubed bison meat, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is browned. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium and add 1 1/2 teaspoon canola to the pan. Add chopped shallot, celery, and carrots, along with the dried thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are just tender, 7 to 8 minutes.
Stir in barley, beef broth, water and bison meat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and let simmer until barley is tender, about 60 minutes.
Add frozen peas and heat for additional 5 minutes. Taste and season with additional ground pepper, if desired. Stir in chopped parsley and serve.
Lean Bison & Barley Soup with Green Peas
- 12 ounces bison top sirloin steak cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 4 1/2 teaspoons canola oil divided
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 large shallots minced
- 3/4 cup diced celery
- 3/4 cup diced carrots
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 3/4 cup pearl barley
- 5 1/4 cups 99% fat-free beef broth
- 3/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup frozen green peas
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Heat 3 teaspoons canola in a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add the cubed bison meat, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is browned. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium and add 1½ teaspoon canola to the pan. Add chopped shallot, celery, and carrots, along with the dried thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are just tender, 7 to 8 minutes.
- Stir in barley, beef broth, water and bison meat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and let simmer until barley is tender, about 60 minutes.
- Add frozen peas and heat for additional 5 minutes. Taste and season with additional ground pepper, if desired. Stir in chopped parsley and serve.
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