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Grouse Corn Cakes

Grouse Corn Cakes

Dive into the rich heritage of Indigenous cooking with our grouse corn cakes recipe, inspired by The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen

I recently acquired a new cookbook: The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman, a James Beard Award winning chef, and Beth Dooley. Chef Sherman’s book is a modern reclamation of Indigenous cooking in the Dakotas and Minnesota regions. One recipe that stands out is “Indigenous Tacos” because it highlights meats, produce, herbs, and spices found and cultivated on the lands where the author’s ancestors lived.   

Chef Sherman tops his tacos with bison meat and uses fried corn mush rounds as the base. He seasons it with juniper, sage, and sumac. He drizzles the tacos with a fruit sauce called wojape. He prepares the sauce with seasonal berries, including chokecherries, blueberries, raspberries, and elderberries. I piled my tacos with Nebraska sharp-tailed grouse and wojape made with wild prickly pears from the same hunting spot, and also mulberries, which my husband and I gather and freeze each summer. I sprinkled the meat with a bit of wild ramp salt that I made a couple years ago.

Chef Sherman’s Indigenous taco is a refreshing departure from the “Indian taco” that most of us are familiar with, a food Indigenous people both love and hate. Fry bread is associated with a controversial, painful history of displacement and subjugation, followed by generational health issues that resulted from being forced to eat unhealthy, government-issued food.

Indigenous societies passed down their stories orally, and as you can imagine, so much knowledge was lost under Euro-American dominance. I am fascinated by modern Indigenous cooking because it reclaims and revitalizes what’s been lost. The Indigenous Kitchen is a must-have book in any collection. It’ll teach you a lot about the wild ingredients of the midwest and perhaps, in cooking their food, provide you with meaningful insight on the peoples who live there.

Indigenous Corn Cakes with Native Spahr-tailed Grouse Meat

Indigenous Grouse Corn Cakes: A Culinary Journey

Dive into the rich heritage of Indigenous cooking with our grouse corn cakes recipe, inspired by The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen. Experience the flavors of the Midwest's wild ingredients and the stories they carry.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indigenous
Servings 2


Grouse Toppings

  • 4 sharp-tailed grouse breasts boneless (two birds)
  • 8 juniper berries finely ground
  • Dried sumac to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 2-3 tbsp duck fat or oil plus extra
  • 1 medium shallot finely minced
  • 1-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup brown or yellow onion chopped
  • Small bunch of sage leaves chopped

Corn Cakes

  • 3 cups water
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 cup coarse grind yellow cornmeal/polenta

Fruit Sauce

  • 3 large prickly pears (about 1½ cups of flesh)
  • 1 cup mulberries
  • 2 tbsp honey or to taste


  • Set your grouse breasts out on the counter for about an hour prior to cooking.
  • In a medium saucepan, bring three cups of water to a boil. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal and sea salt, stirring to get rid of all the lumps. Turn the heat to low and cook covered for 30 minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching. When cooked, set corn mush aside to cool. In a small bowl, combine minced shallot and vinegar, and set aside to soak.*
  • Meanwhile, make the fruit sauce. Slice off the prickly pear ends, slice down the skin, and peel off the flesh. Chop up the seedy flesh and place it in a small saucepan with the mulberries. Crush the fruit with a potato masher and bring to a simmer. Cook the fruit for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the honey to taste. Then, run the fruit and juice through a fine mesh strainer or food mill and squeeze out as much juice as possible. Discard the pulp and seeds. If needed, return the juice to the saucepan and continue to simmer it down to thicken. Set it aside to cool.
    Prickly Pears being prepared for the fruit sauce on the grouse cakes
  • Season the grouse breasts with salt, finely ground juniper berries, and generous sprinklings of sumac. Heat duck fat or oil in a pan over medium-high heat and sear the breasts on both sides. Remove the breasts and loosely cover them in foil to finish cooking them and to keep them warm. In the same pan, sauté your chopped onion and sage until they’re soft over medium heat with a pinch of salt.
  • With your hands, form the corn mush into cakes about three to four inches in diameter and ½ to ¾ inch thick. Heat fat in a pan over medium-high heat, and brown the cakes on both sides until they’re golden and crispy. Chop the grouse into small pieces. Serve meat on top of corn cakes with drained “pickled” shallot, onion and sage, fruit sauce, and finishing salt. Eat with your hands.


*Note that traditionally, this Indigenous recipe did not use vinegar. That was something I added because I wanted more acidity.
Keyword Grouse, sharp-tailed grouse
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