Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Recipe: "Bison with Blue Corn Tortillas"

I made this for supper Friday night.  It's really good.  :D

"Bison with Blue Corn Tortillas"

1 small sweet onion
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 pound ground bison
1/2 to 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon juniper berries
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
blue corn tortillas


Dice 1 small sweet onion. Pour 2 tablespoons sunflower oil into an electric skillet and turn on the heat. Sauté the onion bits, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes until they break apart and start to turn translucent.

Add 1 pound ground bison to the skillet. Use a stiff spatula to break up the meat, turning it until it starts to brown.

Sprinkle in 1/2 rubbed sage. In a mortar and pestle, grind together 1/4 teaspoon juniper berries and 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt. Sprinkle that in. Continue stirring with the spatula, breaking up any large pieces, until the meat is browned with no pink left.

Taste to see if you like the seasoning level. If not, you can add more.

Microwave the blue corn tortillas in a steamer with a little water underneath and a paper towel over the top. If you don't have a steamer, just wet the paper towel. This makes the tortillas more flexible.

Scoop the ground bison onto each tortilla and serve hot.


This recipe uses traditional Turtle Island ingredients (or close analogs, like domestic instead of wild onion). The cooking technique for the meat is similar, although it's a lot more convenient in a skillet than on a hot rock. If the tortillas were fresh they wouldn't need steaming, but it can be done in a basket. If you wanted to go hardcore, you could do this at a powwow campfire to impress your friends.

Alliums come in many varieties, including wild onions and others native to North America. You can use whatever you have; most varieties should work. I like sweet onions because they are less aggressive. I actually have wild ones but not really enough to harvest yet.

If you want more vegetables, you can add them to the skillet with the onion or put them on top raw later. Peppers and tomatoes are good choices.

Sunflower oil is made from sunflower seeds. While the storebought oil is made from domestic varieties, there are varieties of sunflower native to Turtle Island and the seeds could be pressed for oil. It is nearly flavorless and makes a good cooking oil. If you don't have any, another vegetable oil will do.

Bison is a red meat with a much healthier profile than beef. Bison tastes sweeter and darker. If you can't get bison, you can substitute beef, but the flavors won't mesh quite as well. Bison benefits from a cooking oil or other fat because it is relatively lean.

Sage is a leading herb in the traditional foodways of Turtle Island. It has a musky, resinous flavor. There are wild varieties, but garden sage works fine.

Juniper berries taste a lot like rosemary with a piney, woodsy flavor. If you can't find juniper berries, a similar quantity of crushed rosemary will work.

Sea salt is a naturally occurring salt with all its minerals intact. It forms on its own along the coasts and can be gathered in certain places. Nowadays people fill big vats with seawater and let it evaporate, but the salt is minimally processed. If you don't have sea salt, you can use table salt. If you use fine-grained salt, use half as much.

Corn was developed in the Americas over thousands of years, starting with a wild grass called Teosinte, which has an ear about thumb size. Southwestern cultures have favored "field corn" varieties that dry hard, pounded into flour for making tortillas and such. Some tribes consider blue corn sacred or lucky, but really, all corn is. The blue kind has kind of a nutty, sweet flavor. If you can't find it, yellow or white corn tortillas work similarly.

You may notice that these things come from different places. Bison comes from the Great Plains while corn tortillas come from the Southwest. Sea salt could come from the East Coast, West Coast, or Gulf of Mexico. At one time, Turtle Island had a trade network that spanned all four coasts, including some very large cities in Missouri and Central and South America. When people got together, they would trade ingredients and recipes, then throw everything on to cook, pretty much like now. So basically, this is fair food from about a thousand years ago -- and it's still good.

EDIT 8/29/20 -- Tonight I made the leftovers into quesadillas.  Put down a blue corn tortilla, sprinkle some shredded cheese on it, add the bison, sprinkle more cheese, top with another tortilla.  Heat in a skillet until gooey.  :D
Tags: ethnic studies, food, history, recipe
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