From The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman with Beth Doole
I suppose it was my destiny to become a chef, but I couldn’t have known that when my parents split up and our mom moved my little sister and me to Spearfish, South Dakota, to pursue her college degree. Spearfish is near a beautiful canyon, not far from the Needles Highway (named for the granite spires that jut out of the earth in the Black Hills) and close to our family’s cabin. It’s named Ȟe Sápa, in Lakota, and is close to Bear Butte, a sacred place for ceremonies and origin stories, considered the spiritual center of the universe.
My mom, a single parent going to school and working two jobs, just didn’t have time to shop and cook, so she relied on my sister and me to put meals on the table. Because I knew my way around the kitchen, I got a job at the Sluice as soon as I turned thirteen. Named for the gold-mining chutes, the Sluice was a short-order, hectic joint; I bussed and washed dishes and helped prep. That next summer, I worked at Sylvan Lake resort as the youngest on staff. I was a quick study and hard worker and soon pulled up to the grill. Our crew, college-aged kids, bored with steak and potatoes, explored new items such as rattlesnake and beaver, which for me was a thrill. I knew then I loved this work.
Most of what passes for Native American fare today—fry bread or Indian tacos—is not authentic at all. My early ancestors didn’t eat the foods I grew up with or cooked in restaurants. Other than the taniga (a soup/stew of bison offal), timpsula (wild turnip), bison, and Wojape (chokecherry sauce), I knew little about our food culture. The vision I had was all-consuming and it drove me to learn more in order to discover what exactly makes up an indigenous food system and how I could apply that wisdom in my own contemporary kitchen.
Wild Rice Cakes
Psíŋ Aǧúyapi Sáka na Hoǧáŋwičhašašni Ašótkaziyapi nakúŋ Waȟpé Skúya Yužápi
Makes about 4 to 6 cakes
These are our go-to cakes for breakfast, as a snack, and as the base for a well-seasoned bison braise or duck. They’re especially good topped with smoked fish and our bright lemony Sorrel Sauce, page 64. Make them tiny for an appetizer or big for dessert slathered in maple-berry sauce.
The recipe for these couldn’t be simpler. It’s just overcooked wild rice, pureed into a thick dough. We like to stir in a little cooked wild rice for texture. Once shaped, these will keep several days in the refrigerator, so feel free to make them ahead. Leftovers may be re-crisped in a low oven until warmed through.
- 2 cups cooked wild rice, page 81
- About 3 cups water
- Pinch salt
- Generous pinch maple sugar
- 3 to 4 tablespoons sunflower oil or more as needed
Put 1½ cups cooked wild rice and water into a saucepan, reserving ½ cup. Place over high heat, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the rice is very soft and the water has evaporated. Drain. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the rice into a sticky dough. Place the dough into a medium bowl and work in the salt, sugar, and the remaining cooked rice.
Scoop out a scant ¼ cup dough for each patty and shape to rounds about ½ inch thick. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and brown the patties about 5 to 8 minutes per side until lightly browned. Transfer the patties to a baking sheet and place in a warm oven until ready to serve.
From The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley (University of Minnesota Press, October 2017) Copyright 2017 Ghost Dancer, LLC. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the University of Minnesota Press.