Monday, March 1, 2021

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Cook of the Month: Keya Café Cook Brenna Crow


Brenna Crow is the cook the Keya Café, a project of the Cheyenne River Youth Project. She is mostly self-taught. She had no professional experience cooking before she started working at CRYP. She liked to make food the way she would like to eat it and has worked hard to develop her expertise.s

Brenna grew up in Eagle Butte, where she learned to cook from her grandmother and her uncle. Growing up her uncle liked to make homemade bread, meatloaf, mashed potatoes. He also taught her to make fry bread. Her grandmother made cinnamon rolls.

Brenna started working at Keya Café in January 2016. As part of her job she supervises the kitchen, sets the weekly menu specials and posts them on Facebook. The café has a regular breakfast and lunch menu in addition to the specials. They are open every day from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. There is also a coffee shop in the café.

Before COVID Brenna supervised interns who were interested in learning about running a business. The interns would prep food, make coffee, take phone calls, clean tables, run the till, take people’s money, and get the basic under their belts. These days they fill all their orders curbside.

In addition to a regular menu, the café has regular customers. Brenna has learned what people like for breakfast and will often start their order as soon as the person comes in the door.

The regular menu includes cheeseburgers and fries, a buffalo burger, hot dogs, hash browns, bacon, etc. The buffalo breakfast sausage is a favorite and the recipe is a closely guarded secret.

She says, “We did try doing breakfast specials but people would just come in and order their usual. So we did away with that. And we just do lunch specials now. We try to do different lunch specials, but I also try to have a lot of specials that people like. Like tomorrow we’re having chili and fry bread. Tuesday we’re having Indian tacos. On Thursdays we have lasagna and on some Fridays we have chislic. 

Bapa soup is a favorite among the specials. Brenna dries her own buffalo for the soup using a dehydrator. She also uses the dried buffalo for wasna.

Brenna is famous for her soups, which most often feature the fresh vegetables grown at the Cheyenne River Youth Project. They grow yellow squash, zucchini, Hubbard squash, mashed potato squash, tomatoes and cucumbers, lettuces and other greens, celery, carrots.

Right now the seven or eight freezers at CRYP are filled with stuff brought in from the garden this summer, including frozen berries for jellies and jams.

For her home pantry Brenna places an emphasis on spices. She likes Italian seasoning, cumin, curry, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder. “I feel like it’s nothing different from what other people have,” says Brenna. “But one time I asked my little sister if she had baking soda and she was like, ‘I don’t know how to cook!’” She makes her own chili powder and taco seasoning. She’s gotten so good at the chili powder recipe she doesn’t even think about the recipe any more. She also relied heavily on prepared stock base, like chicken or beef.

Her home cooking caters to her 17-year old son. He likes hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, lasagna. Her son if following in her footsteps and has made chicken alfredo his favorite dish with homemade alfredo sauce. 

IMPORTANT! Brenna’s recipe is scaled to feed everyone at the restaurant. So if you are only one family, feel free to cut these recipes in half or in fourths.

Lasagna (makes at least four entire pans)

You will need a large mixing bowl, a 9 x 13 baking dish, measuring spoons, liquid and dry measuring cups, a deep saucepan, a whisk, a large frying pan, a large stock pot, grease container.

Preheat oven to 350°.


For the meat sauce:

5 lbs ground lean hamburger

3 lbs ground pork or buffalo sausage

10 lb can of tomato sauce or pasta sauce

Optional baking soda

 4 boxes lasagna noodles (No boil noodles are a fine option!)

A note on tomatoes: Brenna prefers home canned and homegrown tomatoes from Keya Cafe. If using canned tomatoes from the grocery store and they have a metallic taste, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to neutralize that taste. Just keep adding baking soda until you’re satisfied with the way the tomato sauce tastes.

Cook the meat until brown in a large frying pan. Drain the fat. If there is room in the frying pan add the tomatoes. If not, remove meat to a large stock pot. Combine meat and tomatoes or sauce. Bring to simmer and allow to simmer until the flavors come together, 30-60 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare the noodles according to instructions on the box. If using boiled noodles, strain and place in cold water. Set aside.

For the béchamel sauce:

4 T butter

¼ cup white flour

3 1/2 to 4 C warm milk

Optional salt and pepper. Ground white pepper is recommended.

1 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese

4 – 6 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Optional fresh or dried chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a deep saucepan. Sprinkle in flour, whisk to combine. Allow to cook and bubble up and cook until golden, but do not let it brown. While stirring, gently pour in milk. Stir until thickened. Remove from heat. Add optional salt and pepper.

Layer ingredients in a 9 x 13 baking dish I this order: meat sauce, noodles, meat sauce, noodles, béchamel sauce, mozzarella cheese, parsley. Repeat as needed. End with noodles topped with meat sauce and then sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over all of it.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour until the top is brown and bubbling.


You will need a large mixing bowl, liquid and dry measuring cups, measuring spoons, optional food processor or pastry cutter, biscuit cutter or 3-inch diameter glass, baking sheet, metal spatula, cooling rack or clean dish towel.

Preheat oven to 475°.


10 C flour

1/3 C baking soda

2 1/2 teaspoons of salt (These 3 ingredients make self-rising flour.)

OR 10 C self-rising flour

1 lb cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch bits

4 cups buttermilk or clabbered milk

Note: if you do not have buttermilk you can make clabbered milk by bringing regular milk to room temperature. This is important! Place 1 T apple cider vinegar in the bottom of a one cup measuring cup. Add room temperature milk. The milk should curdle and become thick immediately.

Put 5 C flour and all the butter in the bowl of a food processor or in a large mixing bowl. If using a food processor, pulse until the mixture is combined and looks like small peas or flakes of oatmeal. If doing by hand, use your fingers or a pastry knife to thoroughly incorporate the flour and butter.

Combine that mixture with the remaining flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add buttermilk. Mix until just combined and very wet. Try not knead the dough or handle it too much. 

Turn out onto a floured board. Pat out flat to 1 ½-2 inches thick. Cut with biscuit cutter or 3-inch diameter glass. Arrange on baking sheet, not touching, and bake for 12-15 minutes until risen and golden. Remove to cooling rack.

Bapa Soup

You will need a large stock pot, a large bowl for soaking, knife, cutting board, ladle.


10 lbs dried buffalo meat

16 oz dried corn kernels

Dried timpsila, about 30 or to your preference

3 onions, diced, or 1-1 ½ cups dried minced onions

3 – 4 gallons beef broth

The night before, soak timpsila in water overnight. Save the soaking water. Place all ingredients in a large stock pot, including soaking water. Boil until the meat and timpsila are soft. Serve with frybread or biscuits.

Keya Café makes all the dried ingredients for this recipe. They buy the buffalo from Fred and Michelle DuBray.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

You will need dry measuring cups, measuring spoons, two large mixing bowl, bread loaf pans, vegetable shredder. 

Preheat oven 350°.


18 C all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

6 T cinnamon

6 tsp baking soda

3 tsp baking powder

6 tsp salt

10 C sugar

18 eggs

6 C vegetable oil

12 tsp vanilla extract

12 C shredded zucchini

Optional: 6 C chopped walnuts

Optional: 6 C semisweet chocolate chips

Combine dry and wet ingredients in two different bowls. The zucchini goes with the wet ingredients. Gently add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a few scoops at a time, combining between each addition. A few times the batter has been dry, so I added apple sauce to get the consistency I preferred. This will make us 4 large loaves.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

PHOTO SUBMITTED Fresh vegetables.



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