Bison burgers served on homemade bannock buns with a flavourful cranberry mayonnaise make for a wonderful summer cookout treat. The meat is juicy and flavourful and the buns make a surprisingly tasty vehicle for the fixin's (like a zesty cranberry mayo). A fantastic meal to grill over a campfire or cook on your barbecue (making the buns and burgers indoors in a skillet on the stovetop works well, too.)
Our last campfire cookout was to celebrate the summer solstice, and a glorious night it was. Here in the north, the longest day of the year stays light until almost 11:00 at night, so we could enjoy the spectacularly warm and lovely evening and didn't even end up cooking our dessert in the dark this month! In keeping with the sun and solstice theme, our menu was light, herbacious, and filled with tasty northern delicacies. Sabina and I are absolutely loving this campfire cooking project - and our husbands aren't complaining one bit either - happy to be our chief taste testers. We both love the planning (with many ideas for future cookouts to come), the shopping, and of course the cookout day itself. We take turns having it at each other's firepits. This one was at Sabina's.
Campfire Cooking: A Summer Solstice Menu
Spring Greens with Sunflowers and Bacon
Grilled Prawns with Zesty Herb Butter & Grilled Fennel
Bison Burgers with Spruce Tip Bannock Buns
Grilled Sweet Potato Fries with Cranberry & Spruce Tip Mayo
Flambéed Strawberries with Zabaglione
Apéritif: Spruce Tip Cocktail
We started off the evening with a light and fresh Forest Cocktail made with a shot of last year's spruce tip liqueur. The delightful spruce notes and refreshing lemon got our palates ready and jumping for the evening ahead.
Salad Course: Spring Greens with Sunflowers and Bacon
First we toasted a handful of sunflower seeds over the fire, and fried up some bacon bits.
Sabina and I gathered up the first greens we could find in our gardens - tender lettuces and the purple orach leaves I planted this year. We dressed our salads in a light lemon and sunflower oil (in keeping with the sun theme) vinaigrette, then topped them with the sunflower seeds and bacon. The salads were so light and fresh and tangy - a great starter course, served with chewy rolls heated over the campfire.
Seafood Course: Grilled Prawns with Zesty Herb Butter & Grilled Fennel
This course was the result of a little last-minute finessing, as happens in life at the best of times! Our original plan was to splurge and grill a small lobster tail for each of us. Upon defrosting the frozen ones we'd bought just a few days before, we became aware of a disgusting smell permeating the kitchen. Our noses soon discerned the source as those lovely-looking lobster tails. Yup - they were definitely off! So they got tied up in double plastic bags and were quickly taken to the outside garbage to dispose of. Luckily Sabina had a bag of frozen prawns in her freezer, so we defrosted them in water and saved the meal - they ended up being my favourite course of the whole dinner.
We quickly pan-seared the prawns in a cast iron skillet over the fire, and also grilled a wedge of fennel bulb for each serving. We made up a herb butter by melting a stick of butter and adding in a large handful of whatever fresh herbs we had from our gardens: dill, tarragon, chervil, parsely, basil, and chives. Added the zest of a lemon, salt, and pepper, and poured that over the grilled prawns. We plated them atop a large orach leaf and some sorrel leaves, alongside the fennel. They were out-of-this-world delicious. We were all groaning with pleasure as we slowly savoured every scrumptious mouthful - succulent tender prawns and that fantastic herby butter, with bites of mild sweet fennel alongside.
Oh, my. Food heaven. Definitely gonna make those again!
Entrée: Bison Burgers with Spruce Tip Bannock Buns and Grilled Sweet Potato Fries with Cranberry & Spruce Tip Mayo
We felt we just had to go with some of our famous Alberta bison for the main course, and these burgers were a hit. The bison was tender and flavourful, cooked to a juicy medium rare and kissed with the lovely charred notes from the fire. We kept the burger patties very simple, mixing in 2 slices of finely diced raw bacon to add some fat and moisture to the super lean meat, and salt and pepper to taste. A quick turn on the grill over a crackling fire, and they were perfect.
For the buns, we chose to go with a bannock biscuit which we slowly cooked in a cast iron skillet over the coals. We added a delicious flavour boost to the bannock with a good handful of chopped spruce tips (but you could add any herb from your garden, or even some grated lemon zest). These buns were more than just part of the supporting cast for the burgers - they were players in their own right. They're fluffy like biscuits and dense like English muffins, sturdy enough to support the burgers and all the trimmings, and yet with that wonderful herby flavour of the spruce tips to add a fantastic complexity. If you're making these any time of the year when the short season for spruce tips is past, a handful of your favourite herb or the zest of a lemon would be a tasty substitute. The dough is easy to make, then shaped into buns and slowly cooked in a cast iron pan over a low fire. We made four buns, but they were much too large - monster buns! When I made the burgers again at home I shaped it into 6 buns and those were juuuuust right.
To finish off the burgers we grilled slices of red onion, and whipped up a decadent mayonnaise loaded with a homemade buffaloberry sauce (cranberry or lingonberry works equally well), more spruce tips, and a splash of gin.
We grilled up a load of orange and purple sweet potato fries to eat with our burgers, and to dip into that yummy sauce.
Dessert: Flambéed Strawberries with Zabaglione
As the warm summer solstice evening drew to a close and we lingered around the fire after stuffing ourselves on those lip-smacking first courses and the huge bison burgers, a fitting dessert was a skillet full of beautiful fresh strawberries (with a touch of sugar, butter, and liqueur) warmed and lightly caramelized, then flamed with a ladleful of schnaps heated over the flames. Some vigorous arm action was required to whip egg yolks, sugar, and marsala into a light and fluffy zabaglione over a pot of simmering water on the fire. A bowl of those delicious strawberries covered in clouds of that heavenly zabaglione was a wonderful way to end this unforgettable meal. All was silent except for the crackling of the campfire as we savoured every last spoonful.
Another memorable campfire cookout to add to our growing list and to drool over during our long cold winters.
See our other Campfire Cooking Meals here:
A Spring Menu with Creamy Fiddlehead Soup, Grilled Halibut with Herb Butter, and an Aperol Spritz Cocktail
A Winter Dinner (and a Recipe for Glazed Chestnuts)
Fall Dinner: Smoky Venison Stew with German Pickled Pumpkin
Local Alberta Menu: Porterhouse Steak Cooked on the Coals, Kombucha Cocktail
Harvest Feast: Lamb Kebabs, Roasted Beet Salad
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Bison Burgers with Bannock Buns & Cranberry Mayonnaise
For the Bison Burgers
- 1½ pounds (680gms) ground bison meat (or extra lean ground beef)
- 3 slices bacon, very finely diced (this works best when they are partially frozen)
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 6 thick slices red or white onion, to grill and add to the burgers, optional
For the Bannock Biscuits
- 3 cups (420gms) flour or use a gluten free flour blend for gluten-free
- 3 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3-4 tablespoons chopped spruce tips or other herbs optional
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1½ cups (360ml) water
- butter or oil for frying
For the Cranberry Mayonnaise
- 1 cup (250gms) mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons chopped spruce tips or 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons cranberry or lingonberry sauce
- 1 tablespoon gin optional
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
For the Bison Burgers:
- Dice the bacon finely (¼-inch/.5cm cubes or smaller) - this works best if you freeze the slices until they are firm.
- Sprinkle the diced bacon, salt, and pepper over the bison meat. Mix gently with your hands until just combined. Form the meat into 6 patties (or 5 larger patties). Make a slight indentation in the center of each burger - this keeps them from bulging up in the middle as they cook.
- Set the burgers into the fridge to chill while you make the bannock buns.
- Grill the burgers on a grate over a fire or a barbecue for 3 to 5 minutes per side (depending on the heat level), until done to your liking. Or cook them in a cast iron skillet with some oil on a stovetop.
- Grill or pan-fry the onion slices until they are tender and slightly charred.
- Makes 6 medium or 5 large burgers.
For the Bannock Biscuits:
- Stir together the flour, salt, and herbs (if using).
- Make a well in the center and pour in the butter and water.
- Mix until you have a soft dough. Knead the dough 3 to 4 times just until it forms a ball.
- Divide the dough into 6 parts and shape each one into a flat disk 3½-4 inches (9-10cm) in diameter.
- Heat a heavy cast iron skillet over medium-low heat, either on a stovetop or on a grate set over glowing coals (not hot flames). Melt a generous knob of butter or splash of oil in the skillet.
- Add the bannock buns to the skillet and cook them until golden brown on the bottom. Adjust the skillet and move it to cooler parts of the fire as needed. Check by looking under the buns often to see how they are browning. You want them to take a full 10 minutes on each side so adjust accordingly so that they cook slowly enough. Turn the buns when golden and at least 10 minutes are up, and cook them for 10 minutes on the other side, adding more grease as necessary.
- Split horizontally and fill with the burgers.
- Makes 6 buns.
To Make the Cranberry Mayo:
- Stir together all the ingredients.
- Slather onto the bison burgers, and use as a dip for sweet potato fries.
- Extra Cranberry Mayo will keep well in the fridge for up to a week.
- Makes 1¼ cups (300ml).
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Meredith Jane Adams
These courses each look amazing! I bet everything was delicious 😋
Thanks so much, Meredith. It really is fun to cook over the fire, and everything tastes just a little better with the flavour of smoke and nature. Our summers are short, so it's fun to find ways to be outdoors.