An American Thanksgiving

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A few years ago, I had the privilege of attending a food symposium at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in California. Fancy chefs from all over the world offered presentations and cooking demonstrations. The best, hands down, was given by “The Sioux Chef,” Sean Sherman. It was powerful, touching on colonialism and the destruction of the Native American's food supply. His food presentations were also stellar. Sean is from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. I had met him before at a book signing and had purchased his cookbook. The book and recipes are most interesting, but… if I may, I think my Buffalo Roast recipe is better… 

In addition to the fancy food fare, there were smaller breakout sessions. I attended one with a panel of chefs from other countries that had opened restaurants here in the states. The moderator was the one and only Ruth Reichel (former Gourmet Magazine editor/chief). The topic was on producing authentic foods from global regions and how we in America get authenticity all wrong. It was suggested, that we should stick to what we know. As I sat there in my “melting pot of Americanism”, Lebanese, Swedish and German (with a little bit of French according to my late grandmother), I was offended. I grew up in a home that celebrated food and celebrated the history of where my family had come from. The food always seemed authentic, served up with stories from my parents, grandparents, their grandparents and so on... Perhaps I misunderstood the panels' message, perhaps they too were talking about “food destruction” … But regardless, for me, creating food is a way of traveling to far away places, bringing me closer to people and places that I want to know more about. Authentic or not, it usually tastes pretty darn good.  

For sure there are many dishes that have become iconic American, and perhaps there is no meal that is more that than Thanksgiving, although not necessarily authentic from its origin...

Over the years, I have carried on with family recipes for our Thanksgiving feast, modifying some along the way. I offer you a collection of some of my favorites for you to enjoy or change up and make your own. And, don’t forget to stir in a juicy story or too. Happy cooking!

Thanksgiving Recipes

Buffalo Roast Options:
Sirloin Tip (serves 6 to 8)
I stumbled upon this technique after years of experimenting with various marinades and cooking temperatures and finally found the perfect method. I modified it for grass-fed/finished buffalo and it is terrific. Trust this recipe – you will love the results!

Bison Sirloin Tip RoastIngredients:

1 – 3 lb. Top Round or Sirloin Tip Roast

2 – tablespoons olive oil

2 – teaspoons salt

1 – tablespoon black pepper

Optional seasonings:

2 – teaspoons dried or fresh thyme & rosemary, chopped

1 – teaspoon garlic powder

1 – teaspoon onion powder

Au jus

1 - cup buffalo stock/broth or organic beef stock/broth

½ - cup red wine

¼ cup dry sherry

2 – tablespoons butter 


  • Pre-heat oven to 500°.
  • Rinse roast and pat dry.
  • Mix the olive oil and seasonings together in a heavy roasting pot.
  • Place the roast in the pot and roll the roast in the seasonings, rubbing the seasonings into the roast.
  • Place the roast in the hot oven uncovered and quickly shut the door. Drop the temperature to 475°.
  • Roast uncovered for 12 minutes, then turn oven off. DO NOT OPEN OVEN DOOR!
  • Leave the roast in the CLOSED oven for 2.5 hours. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR!
  • Remove from the oven and transfer the roast to a cutting board.
  • Return the pot to the stove top over medium high heat and add the stock and wine, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and reduce liquid to about one cup. Increase the heat and the sherry and whisk in the butter. Season to taste and serve hot.
  • Slice the roast on the bias into thin slices. (*Optional re-warming: Keep your slices closely together and wrap in foil. Place wrapped roast in 400° oven for 10 minutes.) 

Pass with hot au jus, horseradish sauce, or Wojapi.

*This timeline produces a beautiful, tender, Medium Rare roast. If you like your meat medium or more, increase your hot cooking time. Also, pouring hot au jus over meat will cook meat a bit more. Leftovers make great Roast Buffalo Sandwiches, French Dips or Philly Steak Sandwiches.


Buffalo Pot Roast (serves 6 to 8)

Nothing represents “comfort food” better than a traditional pot roast.  Wild Idea’s 100% grass-fed, rich and slightly sweet bison roast, braised until tender and juicy, nestled in a bed of potatoes and carrots, and covered with pan gravy is a traditional favorite!

Braised Buffalo Chuck RoastIngredients:

1 – 3 pound Wild Idea buffalo Chuck Roast

2 – tablespoons olive oil

2 – teaspoons sea salt

2 – teaspoons black pepper

2 – teaspoons garlic powder

2 – teaspoons thyme, or two to three sprigs fresh thyme *I use half fresh & half dried.

1 – teaspoon rosemary, or one to two small fresh sprigs *I use half fresh & half dried.

1 – teaspoon oregano, or one sprig oregano *I use half fresh & half dried.

2 – onions, 1 diced and 1 quartered

1 to 2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped

5 – cups buffalo, vegetable or organic beef stock

6 – potatoes, quartered

3 – celery stalks, quartered

4 to 6 – carrots, peeled and quartered

½ - cup red wine

1 – tablespoon corn starch, or more if needed


  • Preheat oven to 225°. Rinse bison roast, pat dry and remove string. *Removing string is optional; I usually remove for this preparation, so I don’t lose the seasoning by removing it after cooking.
  • Mix all the dried seasonings together. Rub the roast with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and rub the dried seasoning into the roast.
  • In a heavy pot over high heat, heat the remaining tablespoon of the olive oil. Place the seasoned roast into the hot oil and brown for 5 minutes. Turn roast 3 times, searing for 5 minutes each. *Positioning roast up against the pan sidewalls will help in browning the whole roast.
  • Move the roast to the side and add the chopped onions. Allow the onions to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Place the roast on top of the onions and add the chopped tomatoes around the roast. Pour in the stock and bring to a full boil. Cover the roast and turn off the heat.
  • Transfer covered roast into the preheated oven on the middle rack. Braise the buffalo pot roast for 6 hours.
  • During the last half hour of cooking, add the potatoes, pushing them down into the juices. Replace cover and increase the heat to 375°.
  • Cook the potatoes for 15 minutes, then, add the celery, onion and carrots. Cover and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Check the vegetables to ensure they are cooked through, but still slightly firm. Continue to cook for a few more minutes if needed.
  • Remove the pot roast from the oven, and transfer the roast and the vegetables to a cutting board or platter. Cover with foil.
  • Place the pot with the juices on the stove top over medium high heat. Bring to a boil. Mix the cornstarch into the wine, and whisk into the bubbling pan juices. If the gravy is not to your desired thickness add more wine/cornstarch mix, until desired consistency is achieved. Season to taste.
  • Carve roast and pass with gravy and crusty bread.


 Optional Fruit Sauces

 Wojapi(A fruit sauce that the Native people served with meat or bread)


2 - lbs. chokecherries, berries or plums

¾ - cup water

1 ½ - cups sugar

1- tsp. salt & pepper

Preparations: Boil all ingredients together and simmer until desired thickness. Thicken with a little cornstarch if desired. 


Wild Turkey Fruit Sauce (Serves 6)


2 - tablespoons butter

¼ - cup green onion, finely chopped

½ - teaspoon salt

1 - teaspoon black pepper

¼ - cup chokecherry or plum jam

¼ - cup Wild Turkey Bourbon or other whiskey


  • In saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.
  • Add green onion and cook for 3 minutes.
  • Add salt, pepper and jam, stir to incorporate and liquidizing jam.
  • Increase heat to medium high and add whiskey. Bring to a boil.

Serve hot over bison, grouse or pheasant.



Jill’s Favorite Mashed Potatoes

The trick of pulling some of the moisture out of the potatoes is the key to the ending result.

Ingredients: (serves 10)

2.5 lbs. organic golden potatoes, washed

8 - tablespoons butter + more for serving

2+ - cloves garlic, chopped

2 - teaspoons sea salt

1 - tablespoon black pepper


  • Boil potatoes in water until tender.
  • When potatoes are tender, drain water from the pan and return potatoes to burner over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, rotating potatoes occasionally so the bottom ones will not burn. This pulls the excess moisture out and will give you fluffy potatoes.
  • Melt butter with garlic and seasonings in the microwave.
  • Place potatoes in bowl and mash with a hand masher. Add remaining ingredients. Mash together using electric mixer. Season to taste.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and reheat in the oven or microwave. Top with additional butter pieces and serve.


Savory Buffalo Sausage Stuffing:


2 – tablespoons butter + 1 stick of butter

2 – tablespoons olive oil

1 – 1 lb. Wild Idea Buffalo Breakfast Sausage, Chorizo, or Italian

1 – onion, diced

3 – stalks celery, sliced

2 – teaspoons dried sage

2 – teaspoons dried thyme

1 – teaspoon ground fennel

1 – teaspoon salt

1 – tablespoon pepper

1 – 16 oz. bag herb seasoned stuffing

2 - cups organic chicken stock


  • In heavy skillet over medium high heat, heat butter and olive oil.
  • Crumble in sausage and add onion, celery and all of the dried seasonings. Sauté for 8 minutes.
  • Add herb stuffing and stir to incorporate.
  • Warm the stock and add the stick of butter. Drizzle over the stuffing mixture and mix with gloved hands or spoon to incorporate. The mixture should be moist and hold together.
  • Transfer stuffing to a buttered casserole dish and bake in pre-heated oven for 45 minutes.

 Delicious with buffalo or Turkey, just by itself.


Dessert Options: Pumpkin or Pecan???

Jill's Pumpkin Pie
Note: For custard style pies I have learned that pre-baking crust partially will give you a nice flaky crust on the bottom. You may also need to cover crust half way through baking pie, to keep from over browning. A little extra effort, but so worth it!

Pumpkin Pie

Pie Crust (Makes 2 – 10” deep-dish pie crusts)


3 – cups flour, plus a bit more for rolling
½ – teaspoon salt
1 – tablespoon sugar
¾ – lb. salted butter, chilled and cut into pieces, plus a little more softened for buttering pan and foil
1 – egg, beaten
1 – teaspoon cider vinegar or lemon juice *I use half of each.
2 – tablespoons cream
1 – ice cube


  • Pre-heat oven to 450°.
  •  In mixer using pastry blender, mix flour, salt and sugar.
  •  In small dish, beat eggs. Add vinegar and cream and mix well. Add ice cube to mixture to keep cold, and allow ice to melt almost all the way. 
  • Add chilled butter to flour mixture until incorporated.
  • Slowly drizzle in egg mixture.
  • Remove dough from mixer with floured hands, shape into ball and cut in half.
  • Press dough into disk shape with your hands and place dough onto floured parchment. Top dough with additional floured parchment and roll out.
  • Transfer dough to buttered pie pan carefully. Press lightly into pan, crimp edges and pierce the dough randomly with a fine pronged fork, about 8 times.
  • Chill the pie crust for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  • Lightly butter foil and place buttered side down on top of pie crust, shaping foil in pie crust shape without disturbing edges. Fill foiled crust at least half way up with dried beans, rice or pie weights.
  • Place in 450° pre-heated oven and bake for 25 minutes.
  • Remove foiled pie crust from oven and remove foil gently. Return pie crust to oven to allow the bottom to brown, about another 10 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before filling.

Pumpkin Pie Filling
A few extra ingredients for a richer, creamer filling. Enjoy.


3 – eggs
1¼ – cup dark, pure cane brown sugar, packed
½ – cup sour cream
½ – cup heavy cream
¼ – cup pure maple syrup
1 – teaspoon vanilla
1 – tablespoon cinnamon
1 – teaspoon ginger
1 – teaspoon allspice
4 – cups pureed pumpkin or canned pumpkin 
*Yams or butternut squash can be used too. 


  • In mixer, beat eggs. Add remaining ingredients in order with mixer running, stopping to scrape the bottom occasionally. Mix until well incorporated.
  • Pour pumpkin mixture into prepared piecrust.
  • Bake at 350° for 75 minutes. Increase heat to 450° and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Remove pie from oven and allow to cool for 2 hours before serving.


Grandma Hittle’s Pecan Pie
Our good friend and ranch assistant, Gervase Hittle is a Pecan Pie master!

Pecan PieIngredients:

4 – eggs
¼ – pound butter, softened
2 – cups dark, pure cane brown sugar, packed
2 – teaspoons pure vanilla
1 – lb. pecans, halves or whole *I used 8 oz. of each.


  • In mixer, beat eggs. Add remaining ingredients in order and mix well to incorporate.
  • Pour into prepared pie crust. 
    *Look for my note in pie crust instructions.
  • Optional step: Place pie in a 1” water bath.
  • Bake pie in a 350° oven, for 55 to 60 minutes. 
    *I had to cook for about 15 minutes longer.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool and set for 2 hours before serving.

Photo Credit: Jill O'Brien

1 comment

  • Posted on by Laura Tabacca

    Wow. I would be miserable if I stuck to what I knew. And through diligent reading and study, I think I get a fair bit right about cuisines I originally knew nothing about. Count me with you—and I never serve turkey LOL. My centerpiece will be your prime rib with a rub inspired by some far away land, most likely India because my in laws love Indian food.

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