Bison, or buffalo, is a tasty and nutritious alternative to beef. Leaner than beef, it is more challenging to cook. Sirloin tip steak is an economical cut that looks similar to London broil, with no fat or marbling. It’s delicious when grilled on the barbeque, but the meat is undeniably chewy. In contrast, the sous vide technique of slow cooking results in a medium-rare steak that’s as tender as filet mignon, at a fraction of the price.
For this simple yet elegant preparation, I created a flavor-packed rub using dried porcini mushrooms, garlic powder, and szechuan peppercorns. Szechuan (or Sichuan) pepper is not related to black pepper or to chili peppers despite its name.
The peppercorn is the dried, reddish-brown shell that surrounds the seeds of a prickly ash tree native to China. Only the husk is used for cooking, as the interior black seeds have a bitter taste and gritty texture.
The Szechuan peppercorn is one of the five spices in Chinese five spice powder. It has a unique flavor and aroma, but is not hot or spicy like other peppers. Szechuan pepper is faintly lemony without being pungent or acidic. It is used widely in the cuisines of Asia.
To heighten the mushroom flavor and theme, I like to serve the bison steak with sautéed wild mushrooms, such as fresh porcini (if you can find them and afford them!) or chanterelles or shiitakes.
- Preheat the water bath to 128°F (53°C).
- Place the mushrooms, salt, garlic powder, and peppercorns in a clean coffee grinder or spice mill and grind to a fine powder.
- Rub all surfaces of the bison with the olive oil, massaging the oil into the meat. Rub the spice powder over the meat on all sides. You may not need to use all of it; save any unused mixture in an airtight container. Place the bison and the thyme sprigs in a large food bag and vacuum seal. Cook in the water oven for 8 hours.
- Open the bag and remove the meat. Transfer the accumulated juices to a small saucepan and keep warm over low heat. Discard the thyme sprigs.
- Heat a heavy skillet over high heat and when the pan is hot, film with olive oil. Sear the steak for 1 minute, or until browned, then flip the steak and remove the pan from the stove, letting the residual heat briefly sear the second side. Thinly slice the bison against the grain and serve the steak with the warm cooking juices, if desired.