Huckleberry mules and bison short ribs.
PRESENTED BY THE GOURMET GALS
Food is so much more than sustenance. It connects us to time and place; it connects us to the changing seasons and the changing land; it connects us to each other. It’s why I’ve shaped my life around cooking. Fifteen years ago I began nourishing the locals and visitors of Big Sky alike with my business, The Gourmet Gals, but my relationship with seasonal cooking dates back many more decades to when I was 20 years old and living in a small village in Australia.
I planted my first-ever vegetable garden. I bartered for eggs with the British neighbor down the road. There was no such thing as buying ingredients to make a recipe; there was only an abundance of seasonal ingredients and the desire to turn them into something magical. I moved to Montana 25 years ago and have been delighted to find opportunities to cook with the seasons here just as I learned to across the world in Australia. My now-grown children grew up toddling down rows of vegetables and fruit trees on farms throughout the Gallatin Valley. They flourished on hand-plucked huckleberries and locally harvested wild game. This season, I offer you one of their favorite winter meals, paired with a local favorite cocktail. Enjoy!
A great meal brings guests to the table, but a great drink keeps them talking about it long after the evening is over. Mules are a consistently popular request among my clients, and best of all, they’re versatile; a Montana mule with bourbon is perfect for a long winter evening, but tequila, the traditional vodka or even gin, are all great substitutes. This is also a great choice to serve as a spirit-free mocktail.
Seasonal cooking in harsh Montana winters many times means preserving, which is sometimes as easy as saving a summer treat in the freezer. Huckleberries are the most spectacular combination of sweet and tart and are available frozen locally year-round. Other seasonal options might include pear with clove, or perhaps cranberry, but to me nothing says Montana like a huckleberry mule!
- 2 ounces of vodka (try a spirit from a Montana distillery. I like the Quicksilver vodka from Missoula’s Montgomery Distillery.)
- 1⁄2 ounce of fresh- squeezed lime juice (add more based on your preference)
- 1⁄2 ounce of huckleberry simple syrup* (add more based on your preference)
- 1⁄2 cup of ginger beer (I prefer Fever Tree)
- Lime wedge or round for garnish
- Prepare your cup with ice. Copper mugs are the traditional way to serve this drink, but I’m all about doing with what you’ve got. A nice glass low ball or other cocktail vessel of your choice will do just fine.
- Add vodka, lime juice, ginger beer and simple syrup. Stir.
- Garnish with your lime and serve. Enjoy!
* To make your own huckleberry simple syrup, boil equal parts water, sugar and huckleberries for three minutes on the stove, mashing huckleberries a bit as they cook. Let the syrup cool for at least an hour and store in a mason jar in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.
Bison Short Ribs
Montana winter nights arrive early—and sometimes stay past their welcome. A comforting meal at the end of a long adventuring day on the mountain or a grueling eight hours of work helps turn those long, dark hours into something to look forward to. Bison is a natural choice to use both for its mild deliciousness and as a healthier alternative to beef. And better yet, in Montana, we’re lucky to have an abundance of local options.
Short ribs are particularly succulent and easy to prepare ahead of time. They are excellent braised in the oven as this recipe calls for, or even in a crock pot or Instant Pot®. Cut the cooking time in half and throw the partially braised short ribs on the grill, basting with the cooking liquid or barbecue sauce.
Leftover short ribs? A treat! Shred the meat for tacos and chili, toss with mac and cheese or top a baked potato for a quick meal.
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as canola or vegetable
- 6 pounds bison short ribs
- 3 cups chopped onion
- 3 cups chopped celery
- 3 cups baby carrots
- 2 whole garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tablespoons good quality Herbesde Provence (I highly recommend Victoria Taylor’s which is easiest to find online)
- 1 cup port or any rich red wine on hand
- 1 cup V-8
- 3 cups chicken stock, preferably low sodium
- Pepper to taste
Note: There is an absence of salt in the recipe – V-8 and chicken stock are generally pretty salty, but add more if you prefer!
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Heat a large Dutch-oven style pan on the stove on medium-high heat for 1 minute.
- Add oil and short ribs, searing to a golden crust on each side. Remove the short ribs from the pan to rest.
- In the same pan, add onion, carrot and celery and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaf and Herbes de Provence, stirring all together until fragrant, about another minute.
- Add port, scraping bits off of the bottom and reducing the liquid by half. Return the short ribs to the pan and add 1 cup of V-8 and up to 3 cups of chicken stock.
- Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook at 350 degrees for 4-plus hours. Serve over mashed potatoes, crusty bread or polenta and enjoy!
- Feeling fancy? Strain the liquid from the short ribs, skim the fat off the top and reduce further in a skillet on medium heat. Spoon the reduced sauce over the top of the short ribs.
- Feeling fancier? Make a quick gremolata—equal parts fresh finely minced garlic, lemon zest and parsley—to sprinkle over the top at serving. This adds so much bright flavor, and the acid helps cut the richness of the short ribs.
Nancy Radick Butler is a longtime Big Sky local and the owner of The Gourmet Gals.