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Local flavor

Montana State University-Billings Wine & Food Festival gives 'taste of my youth'

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For those who love trying different foods and wines, the Wine & Food Festival at Montana State University-Billings gives them the opportunity to do just that while providing financial support to students at the college. Held in the middle of May for several years as a way to raise scholarship funds for students attending MSUB, the festival features a week of guest chefs teaching cooking schools along with seminars on wine.

Workshops were held in earlier this month in individual homes and at MSUB, and the week was topped off with a special finish under the grand tent on campus. “Tastes of My Youth – A Culinary Tribute to Eastern Montana” was the class I chose this year, and was delighted to try a variety of foods prepared by the guest chef, Barrie Boulds, who recently joined Rock Creek Resort in Red Lodge as their newest executive chef and manager at Old Piney Dell Restaurant.

Barrie puts an emphasis on locally sourced meats and vegetables, and the cooking class featured a variety of foods from her heritage growing up in eastern Montana on the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux reservation. The following recipes are just three of the many recipes we had the opportunity to sample and enjoy. They are all included in her new bestselling cookbook, “The Big Sky Bounty Cookbook, Local Ingredients and Rustic Recipes,” co-authored with Jean Peterson.

If you have not attended the Wine & Food Festival yet, be sure to put it on your "must-do" list for next May.

Bison tongue tacos

Many Native Americans were very poor on the reservations, so they would buy the lesser-used cuts of beef or innards for cooking. Before colonization, the tongue of certain animals, like the bison, were delicacies and given to the medicine people of their tribes. Beef tongue has a deep, naturally rich beef flavor, like a beef pot roast. Growing up, my mother frequently cooked beef tongue similar to this method, since my father enjoyed having sliced beef tongue on sandwiches.

Servings: 6–8


3 to 4 pounds bison or beef tongue

2 large yellow onions, peeled and quartered

1 whole garlic bulb, cut in half

6 bay leaves

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon cumin

Mini corn or flour tortillas

Pico do gallo (recipe follows)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Place beef or bison tongue in a stockpot or Dutch oven; add onions, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. Pour water over until everything is covered by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 3 hours until tender. Tongue can also be cooked in a crock pot overnight on low or in a pressure cooker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Remove tongue from pot, discarding liquid and stock ingredients. When cool enough to handle, with a sharp knife, remove outer skin of tongue and tendon on tongue. Chop or shred meat. Mix orange juice and cumin and add to meat. Set aside. Heat tortillas, add meat, pico do gallo and any condiments to your liking, such as cilantro, lime and shredded cheese.

Pico de gallo


½ cup fresh cilantro, leaves chopped

½ cup red onions, chopped

4 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 small white onion, chopped

2 to 3 jalapenos, seeded and minced

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Combine all ingredients and chill in fridge until ready to use. Let flavors meld at least 4 hours if possible.

Grandma’s ice box chicken

Chef Boulds said her grandmother cooked this chicken in an old, enameled metal icebox drawer and her and her siblings still think the wonderful flavor came from that icebox drawer. Soaking the chicken in the brine keeps it moist and gives it a superb flavor. Those of us eating the chicken were all amazed at how the flavor penetrated all the way through the meat. The chicken was served with whipped potatoes topped with a pat of freshly churned butter.

Servings: 4


4 bone-in chicken breasts

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 sprigs each of fresh thyme, rosemary and sage

1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade


Make brine (recipe follows) and brine chicken the night before. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove chicken from brine and pat dry. Heat a large cast-iron skillet or sauté pan (do not use non-stick) to medium-high heat. Add ½ cup butter, and as soon as it has melted, add chicken breasts skin-side down. Sauté chicken until skin is a dark brown color. Turn chicken over; reduce heat to medium and place garlic and all the herbs into the pan. Sauté for 2 minutes and then add ¾ cup of chicken broth. Place immediately into oven and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and place over medium-high heat again. Add remaining butter and chicken stock and cook for 2 more minutes to thicken sauce. Place chicken on plates and spoon sauce over chicken. Garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs.

Chicken brine


1 cup white sugar or honey, local preferred

½ cup kosher salt

1 quart (4 cups) hot water

4 garlic cloves, smashed

2 sprigs each of fresh rosemary, sage and thyme


Dissolve sugar and salt in hot water; add rest of brine ingredients and chill completely before adding chicken. Brine chicken breasts overnight or for up to 24 hours.

Grandma Vivian (O’Toole’s) rum cake

This rum cake was just one of the three desserts Chef Boulds prepared for us to sample. She shared that the only time her Grandmother O’Toole partook of alcohol was when she baked this cake. She said she would laugh for an hour after eating the cake, and whenever Chef Boulds bakes the cake she thinks of her.

Servings: 8–10


1 box yellow cake mix

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup rum

¾ cup vegetable oil or 1½ sticks unsalted butter, melted

4 eggs

1 small box instant vanilla pudding

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Dry mixture:

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ cup chopped nuts, preferably pecans


1½ cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Rum, any kind, as needed for consistency


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all cake ingredients with a mixer and set aside. Oil and flour a bundt cake pan. Spoon half the cake mix dough evenly into the bundt pan. In a bowl combine the dry mixture ingredients. Sprinkle the dry mixture over the cake dough. Spoon the rest of the cake dough mixture on top to cover. Bake for 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan briefly. Turn upside down on a large cake platter. With a toothpick, poke holes in top of cake. Mix the first two ingredients of frosting and enough rum to make a medium-thin frosting. Pour over cake, letting it run down the sides.

Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana Newspapers. She was a Yellowstone County extension agent for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.


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