A Trick to Tenderizing


Bear can be tough, but making it tender is simple. To prove a point, I took a foreleg from a spring bear, removed the meat, cut it into small cubes, seared it with five kinds of onions, simmered it for three hours, and enjoyed a richly flavored and tender bear ragout. The biscuits were baked on top of the ragout, yielding a biscuit like a baked dumpling.


Flavor, Time, and Temperature


It’s been hot here for the summer; 34 degrees Celsius (93.2 Fahrenheit) is smoking hot for the great white north, an area that sees -34 C regularly when the sensible bears are sleeping. A long, slow oven cook is the last thing my family wants when we are trying to keep the house cool, so I have been expanding my experience with grill cooking. This entire recipe was cooked on a three-burner grill in a Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven. 

I had two goals when I tackled this recipe—make a tough cut of bear tender and make it delicious. Five different onions (six if you consider the fresh chives in the herbed biscuits) made their way into this recipe: leeks, scallions, shallots, garlic, and yellow onions. The goal of mouth-watering and tasty food was achieved.


Five-Onion Bear Ragout

Serves 8 




Dutch oven

French knife

Paring knife

Wooden spoon

Cutting board

Cup measures

Grill (three-burner is preferred, but use what you have)

Baking sheet

Spatula / lifter

Rolling pin

Biscuit cutter


Ingredients for the Ragout


2 pounds or 900 grams of cubed bear (use the tough stuff for this one)

2 Tablespoons of canola oil

5 green onions, white and green parts finely diced

1 leek, sliced crosswise, both white and green parts

8-10 shallots, peeled and sliced lengthwise

3-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced crosswise

1 large white onion, peeled, halved, and sliced

2 ounces or 60 grams of guanciale (if you can find it) or side of bacon, diced

2 Tablespoons liquid concentrated beef stock

2 Tablespoons dijon mustard

1 cup red wine

1-2 cups of water, as needed to keep the ragout moist




Trim and dice the bear meat (I used meat cut from the foreleg, probably the toughest and grisliest part of the bear).

Prepare and measure the ingredients for the ragout.

Turn your grill to high and heat the dutch oven.

Once the dutch oven comes to temperature, add the oil and chopped guanciale/bacon. Stir every few seconds to make sure it doesn’t burn. As soon as most of the fat is rendered from the bacon, add the bear meat and make it level in the pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Leave the heat on high and stir once the bear browns well. Stir to brown the bear and leave on high until the moisture evaporates. You want the flavor of well-browned bear meat in the final result.

Add garlic, onions, and shallots to the bear and mix well into the meat, then cover and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Remove the lid, stir in the red wine, mustard, and beef concentrate. Lower the heat on the grill to a simmer and cover the dutch oven (my grill is a three-burner, so I turn off the center burner and turn the two outside burners to the lowest setting. This maintains a slow simmer). Adjust the flame on your own grill to maintain a slow simmer.

Every 30 minutes or so, remove the lid to check the simmer, adjust the heat if required, stir well and add water to maintain the level of liquid in the ragout. You want the meat to be at least half covered in liquid.

At two and a half hours, add the chopped green onion and leeks to the ragout.

Continue to simmer for total of 3 hours. The goal is bear ragout the consistency of medium-thick gravy.

At three hours check to taste a piece of meat. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if you like.

When the bear is tender, mix and bake the biscuits on top of the ragout.


Grandma Ellen’s Buttermilk Biscuits (makes a dozen medium biscuits)


Biscuits are a simple and quick bread. Here's what I do to make exceptional biscuits: use 1/2 pastry, 1/2 all-purpose flour, and fresh buttermilk, then mix these very little. Grandma Ellen, my mother-in-law, taught me to mix the buttermilk into the biscuit with a few quick strokes from a heavy wooden spoon. Don't knead these. Turn them out on a well-floured board, sprinkle the tops liberally with flour, roll gently, and cut with a biscuit cutter. These should be the best and most tender biscuits you have ever had.





Chef’s knife

Cutting board

Cup and spoon measures

Mixing bowl

Rolling pin

Biscuit cutter

Wooden spoon

Lifter/pastry scraper

Searing hot grill and dutch oven full of burbling bear ragout




2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups cake flour

3 Tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup chilled butter, cubed

2-4 Tablespoons of finely chopped chives

2-4 Tablespoons of finely chopped parsley

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 cups (500 ml) buttermilk





Turn the grill to the highest setting when you’re ready to mix your biscuits.

Measure and mix dry ingredients.

Cut chilled butter into niblet-sized chunks and rub into the flour with your hands until the mix is the texture of dry oatmeal.

Add chopped herbs. 

Measure and add buttermilk.

Stir with a few aggressive strokes to bring the soft dough together.

Turn the whole sticky mess on a floured board; sprinkle the top with flour.

Press the dough evenly with your palms or roll gently with a rolling pin until almost two-centimeters (¾ inch) thick.

Cut rounds with a biscuit cutter, the rim of a glass, or a tin can with both ends cut out.

Place rounds on a rimless baking sheet or something similar so you can slide the biscuits onto the bear ragout.

1.     Slide the biscuits onto the top of the bubbling ragout. 

2.     Cook for 12-15 minutes until caramel-colored on top.

3.     As soon as the biscuits are cooked, the ragout is ready to serve.



I miss Grandma Ellen, but eating these biscuits brings me back to happy conversations at her farm kitchen table. She would be pleased for you to have her recipe and access to her biscuit secrets. And I am happy to share another delicious bear preparation that you can enjoy with your friends and family.