Discover delicious recipes from Freddie Bitsoie’s New Native Kitchen fit for the holiday table.
In our November/December 2021 issue, we chatted with Navajo chef Freddie Bitsoie about his brand-new cookbook—and we came away with a few recipes. See how to make Braised Bison Short Ribs, Glazed Root Vegetables, and Chocolate and Piñon Nutcake.
Braised Bison Short Ribs
Serves 6 to 8
Braised short ribs are one of my favorite comfort foods, so I couldn’t help but include two recipes for them. This heartier, thicker, wintrier version feels a bit more rustic than the Sumac-Braised Ribs. ... These also cook a bit longer to allow for the leaner bison, which sometimes needs more time to tenderize. The easiest place to find bone-in bison ribs is from your local butcher. You may have to preorder, but the wait will be well worth it. In early Indigenous recipes, centuries before stovetop searing and oven slow-cooking were possible, this would’ve been a stewed meat recipe. But braising is now as common a technique in Native American households as anywhere else; and after the first time you make these ribs, you’ll know why.
¼ cup (60 ml) canola oil
8 bone-in bison (or beef) short ribs — about 7 pounds (3.4 kg)
2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups (480 ml) dry red wine, optional
2 quarts (2 L) beef stock, or more as needed
Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C). In a Dutch oven over high heat, add the oil. While the oil is heating, dredge the beef in the flour, shaking off the excess. Add the ribs to the hot oil. Sear all sides of the meat. Once browned, remove, and set aside. Reduce the heat to low and add the onion, carrots, celery, thyme, bay leaves, garlic, salt, and pepper. Sweat the vegetables until the onions are soft and begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Clear a space in the middle of the vegetables and add the tomato paste directly to the hot surface of the pot. Allow the paste to brown and form a crust (takes about 2 minutes; be careful not to burn the paste). Then add the wine (if using) to deglaze the pot and stir so the paste is incorporated into the vegetables. Allow the wine to evaporate completely. If you’re not using the wine, deglaze the pot with some of the beef stock, scraping up any bits stuck to bottom of pot. Add the beef stock to the pot, ensuring the vegetables are just covered. Add more stock if necessary. Return the seared ribs to the pot. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat, cover, and place in the preheated oven. Braise for 2 hours. After 2 hours, remove the ribs from the sauce and set aside. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves and transfer the contents of the pot to a blender (caution: the liquid will be hot). Puree for 5 minutes or until smooth. Return the blended contents back to the pot and add the ribs. Return to medium heat and let the sauce and ribs reheat. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary, and serve immediately once the ribs and sauce are hot.
Glazed Root Vegetables
Serves 4 to 6
I first learned to forage from my grandmother, who’d take me into the forests of Colorado on weekends and show me where to find piñon nuts, wild onions, and root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, and sunchokes. After filling our baskets, we’d return home and braise them to perfection — it’s a technique nearly as easy as roasting, but even more delicious. Since then, I’ve perfected my root vegetable recipes, getting creative while staying (mostly) true to the traditions of the Navajo, White Mountain Apache, Ute, Zuni, and Hopi tribes of the Colorado Plateau, where these vegetables have always grown wild. Make substitutions based on what you like; any root vegetables will work, as long as you cut them the same size, so they cook evenly. But try not to skip the fennel; the slight hint of anise really adds to the glaze — as does the splash of white wine, though that’s obviously not a traditional ingredient. No need to peel your root vegetables; you’ll lose nutritional value, and the earthy flavor is intended to complement the caramelization of the vegetables. Sear them well so they’ll release their natural sugars; that’s the secret to this simple, delectable, autumnal dish.
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 fennel bulbs, cleaned, leafy tops removed, and the bulb cut into wedges
3 carrots, unpeeled and cut to the length of the fennel bulbs, then halved
1 medium turnip, cleaned and diced
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into wedges
½ cup (120 ml) dry white wine
2 cups (480 ml) vegetable or chicken stock
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C). In a heavy-bottom sauté pan over high heat, add the oil and heat, but don’t let the oil smoke. When the oil is hot, add some of the fennel bulbs, carrots, turnip, and onion. Note: You will likely need to cook in batches. Sear the vegetables until they have a nice caramelized crust. Remove from the pan and continue with the next batch. When finished searing, add all the seared vegetables back to the pan. Add the white wine to deglaze, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, and allow all the wine to be completely cooked out. Next, add the stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pan and transfer to the preheated oven and braise for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, add the salt and pepper, and serve warm with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top.
Chocolate And Piñon Nutcake
Serves 6 to 8
Baked goods aren’t common in ancient Native American recipes, but they’re essential to modern menus. This almost-flourless chocolate cake relies on traditional Indigenous ingredients like chocolate, berries, and piñon nuts, as well as nontraditional ingredients like eggs, flour, sugar, and brandy. Old meets new in this dense, decadent cake simply served with fresh berries foraged (or purchased) in season. It’s a personal favorite, one that I often make for small events and summer parties. Featuring chocolate in a dessert such as this is also a delicious way to emphasize the importance of cacao in Native American history. Not only is chocolate one of the most valuable and sought-after delicacies, Indigenous tribes first discovered and perfected its prized recipe. Today, chocolate remains an important food to the cultural and economic development of many Indigenous people.
1 cup (170 g) chopped bittersweet chocolate
½ cup (115 g) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup (65 g) piñon nuts
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 eggs, separated
¾ cup (150 g) sugar, or more as needed
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Fresh berries, for garnish, optional
Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Grease and flour an 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan lined with parchment paper on the bottom. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter. Stir in the brandy, vanilla, and salt. Set aside. In a food processor, add the piñon nuts and flour and pulse until just combined. Note: Do not process into a paste. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, add the egg whites, ¼ cup (50 g) of the sugar, and the cream of tartar. Mix or whisk to soft peaks. Set aside. In another mixing bowl, add the egg yolks and the remaining ½ cup (100 g) sugar and whisk until well incorporated. Note: The yolks should pour in the form of a ribbon, known as the ribbon stage. If they don’t, mix in a little more sugar. Slowly whisk the hot chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Note: Whisk in slowly: If you add the hot chocolate all at once, the eggs will curdle. Next, fold in the flour mixture and finally the egg white mixture using a rubber spatula. Make sure the whites stay whipped. Pour the batter in the prepared pan and bake until cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool before serving with berries (if using).
All excerpts and recipes from New Native Kitchen: Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian by Freddie Bitsoie and James O. Fraioli (October 2021, Abrams) used by permission.
From the November/December 2021 issue.
Photography: (Freddie Bitsoie) courtesy Thosh Collins; (All others) courtesy New Native Kitchen: Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian by Freddie Bitsoie and James O. Fraioli