Sunday, March 25, 2012

Snacking State-by-State: North Dakota I - It's A Sioux Stew Revue

Prior to this post, my only exposure to North Dakota was Fargo (which, I might add, mostly takes place in Minnesota).  Watching Fargo give me no insight into the foods of the Roughrider State, and well it shouldn't.  Otherwise, I'd just be exploring Arby's and "Pancakes House".

Official Name: State of North Dakota
State Nicknames: The Roughrider State, The Peace Garden State, the Flickertail State
Admission to the US: November 2, 1889 (#39)
Capital: Bismarck (2nd largest)
Other Important Cities: Fargo (largest), Grand Forks (3rd largest), Minot (4th largest)
 Midwest, Great Plains; West North Central (US Census)
RAFT NationsBisonWild Rice
Bordered by: Manitoba, Saskatchewan (Canada) (north); Montana (west); South Dakota (south); Minnesota (east)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: milk (beverage), northern pike (fish), chokecherry (fruit), Western wheatgrass (grass)
Some Famous and Typical Foods: wheat & milk (a leading producer of each), Native American (such as Lakota Sioux) foods (including fry bread, pemmican, foods using buffalo, etc.); buffalo, wild rice, chokecherries and other native foods; German,  Scandinavian and Russo-German foods (including borscht and knoepfla soup, etc)

North Dakota's cuisine features a few strong culinary traditions: northern Great Plains (such as Lakota Sioux), Northern European (such as German & Scandinavian) and Eastern European (such as Russian and Russo-German).  While there are surely other traditions, these are the big ones.  A very complete list of what to find food-wise in North Dakota comes from Thoughts from a North Dakota Ambassador blog author Sandy McMerty, the North Dakota Commerce Dept's Ambassador Program Director and self-proclaimed "chief cheerleader for the state of North Dakota".  She (with intern Stacey Loula) provides an extensive list of food festivals, finds and recipes from all over the state [McMurty 2011]

Of these, the foods of North Dakota's native peoples are certainly the oldest: Ojibwe/Chippewa, Assiniboine, the Affiliated Tribes (Hidatsa, Mandan and Arikara), and specifically the Sioux: Lakota, Dakota and Nakota. Many of the foods that the Sioux and other Great Plains peoples have eaten and still eat today (and will continue to eat in the future) have already been featured in this series: specifically wojapi and more than a few types of fry bread (the versatile staple of modern Native American cuisine), while others such as wahuwapa wasna (corn balls) will likely pop up at some point in the future .  One search for modern Sioux recipes also turns up a lot of recipes with buffalo, a very important animal in the Great Plains.  It was hunted and eaten there for generations, and of course is now raised as livestock.  So once again it's easy to find.

One search of the internet turned up many Lakota recipes that use buffalo.  Wendell and Nancy Deer With Horns offer a traditional Lakota stew that consists of just chunks of buffalo, wild onions and turnips - simple and delicious.  I went with a more modernized stew from contributor "HLakota51", Hunkpapa Lakota (Standing Rock Sioux), who gives a filling "Grandma Connie's Buffalo Feast" using ground buffalo, corn, tomato and brown rice.  I thought of using wild rice, but sometimes my innovations don't work out too well, so no substitutions this time.

The Recipe: Grandma Connie's Buffalo Feast

For this buffalo feast you will need the following:

* ground buffalo (quite the feast indeed.  I picked up a pound of ground buffalo at the Waverly Farmer's Market - Gunpowder Bison had plenty of buffalo.  I picked up a pound of it for - gack- $9)
* corn (one can, about 80¢ at Harris Teeter)
* tomatoes (again, about the same at Harris Teeter)
* onions (had a few in the kitchen)
* brown rice (a few cups of it.  I bought it in bulk at Whole Foods for surprisingly little, only about $1.50)
* water (you will need this for the rice.  I had to add a little more than the recipe called for)
* all-purpose seasoning (I didn't have any of this around, so I threw a few spices together: rosemary, cayenne, oregano, thyme and sage.  In the end, I also added a few fancier, feastier things to the finished product: alder-smoked sea salt and Trader Joe's Flower Pepper, a combination of peppercorns and dried edible flowers, all ground together)

First, chop the onions.

I started to sauté the onion with some butter (not listed in the recipe)...

...and then added the buffalo.  Cook until brown.

Add everything else and simmer for half an hour.  I found the rice to still be hard after twenty minutes, so I covered it for the last ten.  The rice was still hard, so I added more water and cooked, covered, for fifteen more minutes.  Tender this time!

Once done, add the spices and stir.

One thing I can say about this buffalo feast: it is quite hearty.  With the selection of seasonings I used it turned out somewhat bland.  Had I used different seasonings that probably would have made a difference.  Again, adding the Flower Pepper and the sea salt made for a fascinating flavor.  It could go well with a little fry bread, or in my case some leftover naan.


Deer With Horns, Wendell and Nancy. "Buffalo Recipes".  Deer With Horns Web Site, date unknown.  Copyright 1998-2012 Deer With Horns Web Site.

Diary of a Recipe Addict (Megan, blogger).  "Knoephla Soup".  Posted March 10, 2011.  Copyright 2011-2012 Diary of a Recipe Addict.

Germans from Russia Heritage Collection.  "History and Culture".  Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, 2011.  Copyright 2012 North Dakota State University Libraries.

"HLakota51" (username). "Grandma Connie's Buffalo Feast". Indigenous Food and Traditional Recipes. Date posted unknown. Copyright 2012 NativeTech.

McMurty, Sandy.  "Foods of North Dakota".  Thoughts from a North Dakota Ambassador.  Posted March 3, 2011.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "North Dakota" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "North Dakota".