Nehiyaw chef Shane Chartrand, of Enoch Cree Nation, is an artist through and through. As culinary ambassador with the River Cree Resort & Casino in Enoch, Chartrand works to promote and represent Indigenous cuisine and culture, both at the resort and beyond.

Chartrand is an award-winning chef with close to 30 years of experience in the industry. He’s a regular guest on local television and is known for national appearances on Wall of Chefs, Fridge Wars, Iron Chef Canada and Chopped Canada. But the tattoo-clad, professional cuisinier remains humble, even as his first book of personal stories and recipes, tawâw, penned with writer Jennifer Cockrall-King, continues to garner acclaim since its October 2019 release.

“Food, cooking—it is purpose,” says Chartrand. Although Chartrand is well-versed in western recipes, he’s always looking to integrate Indigenous-inspired ingredients in his dishes such as bannock flatbread pizza—pizza on bannock, infused with flavours of wild-game, classic pepperoni or vegetables.

Chartrand is also eager to continue to serve original dishes to his customers through special offerings of braised bison, elk and grilled fish imported from the Coast Salish tribes, and says that his childhood dreams and memories influence the dishes he shares with diners.

“I’m inspired by people’s emotions and thoughts. So, for me, it’s not just about the ingredients; I match the ingredients to the emotion.”

Recipe: Rabbit in a Garden

Makes 2 servings

Photograph by Cathryn Sprague

Ingredients:

For the rabbit
4 to 6 cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
6 tbsp canola oil, divided
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 rabbit legs
pinch each of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 cup rubbed sage (see tip below)

For the garden
5 large kale leaves
pinch of fleur de sel
2 cups canola oil, or more as needed to shallow-fry
3 cremini mushrooms
2 radishes, including the tops
1/2 cup fennel tops and fronds (approx.)
1 English cucumber, for garnish

For the saskatoon berry vinaigrette
1⁄2 cup cold-pressed canola oil
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup pomegranate syrup
2 tbsp water
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1⁄4 cup saskatoon berries or mossberries

Method:

1. In a small bowl, combine the chopped mushrooms, 2 tbsp of the oil, and the garlic. Set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F

3. Prepare the rabbit: Place the rabbit on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, remove the large upper bone from both thighs but leave the smaller bone in each leg; set the legs aside. Lay the thighs out, then cut horizontally through the meat until it is almost cut in half (butterflied) to make a pocket for the stuffing. Season the cavity with salt and pepper. Divide the mushroom mix evenly between the thighs and then roll them closed. Using butcher’s twine, truss the legs shut.

4. Spread the rubbed sage over a plate. Roll the legs in the rubbed sage until evenly covered.

5. In a heavy skillet, heat the oil over high heat until it shimmers. Sear the legs on each side for 2 minutes, or until you get a nice golden-brown crust on the flat parts of the meat. Transfer the seared legs to a dry pan and roast in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the internal temperature of each leg reaches 160°F. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside to let the meat rest.

6. Deep-fry the kale leaves: Fill a deep pot with about 3 inches of oil and heat to
350°F (you’ll know it’s hot enough when you see little “rivers” appear along the bottom of the pot). Fry 3 of the kale leaves until golden brown. Using a wire-mesh scoop or slotted spoon, transfer the fried leaves to paper towel to drain. Season with a pinch of fleur de sel. Set aside.

7. Prepare the “garden”: Using a rolling pin, flatten out the remaining 2 kale leaves until tender. Using a paring knife, cut the centre stems out and discard. Rip the leaves into bite-size pieces with your fingers. Cut the mushrooms lengthwise into 1⁄4-inch pieces. Tear the radish tops into bite-size pieces. Trim the tops and bottoms from both radishes; peel one and cut it in half. Thinly slice the unpeeled radish into thin coins. Roughly chop the fennel tops and fronds. Using a vegetable peeler, shave 5 or 6 long strips from the cucumber. Roll them around your little finger to make a rose garnish, and set aside.

8. Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the cold-pressed oil, lime juice, pomegranate syrup and water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the saskatoons and stir until coated.

9. Assemble the dish: Combine the raw kale leaves, mushrooms, radish coins and tops, and fennel in a mixing bowl. Add the vinaigrette and gently toss (you don’t want to crush the saskatoons or break the mushroom slices).

10. Arrange one and a half fried kale leaves on the bottom of each serving plate. Cut a 3⁄4-inch round slice from the end of each rabbit thigh. Place one piece, cut-side up, on each of the
plates. Place one leg, bone facing up, on each plate. Arrange the dressed salad around the rabbit, dividing it equally. Place half of a peeled radish on each plate. Finish by garnishing each plate with curls of cucumber. Serve immediately.

 

Excerpted from tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine by Shane M. Chartrand with Jennifer Cockrall-King. Copyright © 2019 Shane Mederic Chartrand and Jennifer Cockrall-King. Reproduced with permission from House of Anansi Press Inc., Toronto. All rights reserved. www.houseofanansi.com

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