Rekindle the Fire: Butternut Bison Cottage Pie

by zydecopaws on November 10, 2014

Another two weeks has gone by, and once again it is my turn to pick from a list of ingredients used by Tom Porter of Big Butz BBQ last week as part of the Rekindle the Fire series/challenge. Those of you following along (I believe the number might be as high as 4) know that Tom used red onions (off limits for this cook), beef arm roast (aka chuck roast, but who’s keeping score?), butternut squash, and spaghetti. Since it’s getting late in the year, the butternut squash was the obvious choice to use as the carryover ingredient, mainly because the are fresh, plentiful, and cheap. That and BBQ spaghetti was way too obvious and easy…

The real challenge here was to use it in a way that was a bit more unique than simply serving it up as a side after it spent some time on the grill. After a bit of thought (and more than one adult beverage consumed while surfing the Net) I came up with the idea of an old traditional dish (Cottage Pie) with a twist (squash instead of potatoes) on top. I give you Butternut Bison Cottage Pie.

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For those wondering what cottage pie is, it is another name for a shepherd’s pie made with a meat other than lamb/mutton/goat/things-that-shepherds-watch and a crust of mashed potatoes. It turns out that there are a lot of regional variations of similar dishes so I don’t feel real bad about messing about with tradition.

In keeping with our local philosophy of cooking as much of the meal outdoors as possible in all sorts of weather (it was raining the night I made this one, not unusual for this time of year here in the Pacific NorthWet), the butternut squash was split in half and cooked on the BS Keg for about 40 minutes, then joined by a deep cast iron skillet.

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The squash came off, and the meat and veggies mixture went in the skillet (not all at once, but in the usual stages of meat and garlic, followed by veggies and a bit of sautéing, then the liquid ingredients) and were brought to a boil so that a picture could be taken.

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Actually, this one was taken before the liquid was added so that you can get a better sense of the other three ingredients for this particular cook, which were butternut squash (not shown in this picture, but coming soon), ground bison, carrots, and mushrooms. Also making an appearance were leeks, shallots, garlic, and fresh ginger, any of which I suppose I could have used as one of the featured ingredients as they all contributed heavily to making this dish what it was.

Now it was time for the unconventional part of the dish (as if ground bison weren’t enough). Instead of layering on a crust of mashed potatoes, I used a mash of butternut squash, butter, and a bit of salt and pepper.

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This was left on the grill for another 20-30 minutes to brown the squash and give it a bit of a crispy top. Little did I know that too much liquid in the bottom of the pie would turn the top into a food representation of the La Brea Tar Pits…

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Fortunately my family isn’t too caught up in visual mistakes of this sort, especially as the results were fantastic. Good enough that there were no leftovers and many cries to make it again in the very near future.

I guess that sometimes it pays to mess with tradition…

Butternut Bison Cottage Pie

  • 1 lb ground bison
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 leek
  • 1 shallot
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushroom
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • cornstarch & water
  • butter
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Roast/bake/cook indirect on the grill until al dente (about 25-40 minutes at 350, depending on the size of your squash).
  2. Brown ground bison (or beef, pork, turkey, lamb, whatever you decide to use) in a deep skillet or casserole with the garlic and ginger. Drain the excess juice if you use a fatty ground meat; with bison this is totally unnecessary as it is so lean.
  3. Add carrots, leeks, shallots and saute until veggies are fully heated.
  4. Add mushrooms, thyme and any other of your favorite herbs and spices you might like. Stir well.
  5. Add beef stock, wine, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well and bring to a boil.
  6. Add cornstarch dissolved in a bit of water to thicken. Bring back to a simmering boil, stirring regularly.
  7. Mash butternut squash in butter and add salt and pepper to taste. Use a spatula to spread mash over the top of the other ingredients.
  8. Bake/roast for about 20-30 minutes at about 350°F or until top is browned (cooking outdoors is not an exact science where you get exact times and temperatures; get over it).
  9. Remove from heat, serve, and enjoy.

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