Author Interview: Jean Petersen and the Magic of Big Sky

Read our Q&A with Jean Petersen, the co-author of The Big Sky Bounty Cookbook: Local Ingredients & Rustic Recipes. A graduate of Colorado State University and member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Jean Petersen ( has more than twenty years of professional writing experience as a columnist with Western Ag Reporter and nonfiction children’s author.

What about Montana makes cooking so unique?

Montana is filled with abundant natural resources, and readily available for locally sourced foods.  Having these foods so uniquely accessible is because they are from our back yard, native, and a part of our landscapes historical heritage.   

What’s your interest in Montana cooking and food?

I’ve always enjoyed cooking. Living amongst the plenitude of Montana’s bountiful resources has given me an additional opportunity to customize how I cook and prepare dishes because this is what we have the benefit of being readily available from our own harvested and processed foods sources.  It’s different from when you’re purchasing these items off a shelf at a mass market grocery store. It’s unique to our western landscapes to be able to hoist a giant trout from a Montana river for a delicious meal, or harvesting an elk, processing it into our own steaks and then having the opportunity to combine the dish with wild native ingredients adding to its specialty to create a gourmet meal, is distinctive of Montana’s historical abundance of food resources.   

How did you and Chef Boulds connect?

Chef Boulds and I met several years ago through a dear friend, who grew up with her on the Assiniboine Reservation, and we began working together for the further development of her signature salad dressing company.
Talk about the development of the recipes---how much trial and error was involved?

Chef Boulds has spent her career mastering and developing these recipes uniquely and exclusively with her style and western flair.
How are these recipes accessible yet gourmet?

The difference with these recipes is Chef Boulds has created various methods of preparation, garnishing, marinades are simple yet sophisticatedly blends of ingredients that a ‘rustic’ cook like myself would usually not think of or know how to combine to create an ‘over the top’ decadent meal, while also having the ingredient groupings accessible from our back yard, at local farmers markets, and as a part of what is natural and native to our western region.

What’s your favorite dish to prepare?

This is a hard question, because I have thoroughly enjoyed preparing these dishes from Chef Boulds’ recipes.  The most memorable is the rattlesnake cakes.  I am terrified of snakes, beyond my control of terror and have now made this dish many times.  But with this recipe, I knew I wanted to showcase how anyone can create this exclusively unique dish and have it results being outstanding, which it is!  I love to prepare steaks and have various options to accompany and prepare one of our favorite meals other than my ordinary packet of mix-matched salt and peppers.  Also, two recipes in-particular I found I so enjoyed making was the Lemon and Garlic Quail over Linguini and the Garden Vegetable Pesto Pasta.  These meals are so simple, quick preparation, and exceptionally tasty.  I was so surprised I could make the quail, and have it turn into a melt in your mouth incredible dish teamed with the pasta and blend of ingredients.  It was just fun to make. The same with pesto pasta; all local garden vegetables are included, blended together with additional ingredients like lemon, parmesan cheese, and pesto creates just a wonderfully colorful delicious meal.

Are many of the recipes rooted in history?

So many of the recipes showcased natural resources are historical native to Montana.  Elk, bison, antelope, deer, quail, trout, rattlesnakes and many other resources are all indigenous throughout Montana’s history as food sources, and of course wild garlics, huckleberries, chokecherries, wheats and natural herbs are also noted as being staples throughout the development, discoveries, and settlements rich in Montana’s history.  Cattle and sheep were domestic animals introduced in the mid-1800’s but have thrived as a part of the native scene and western culture because of the vast abundance of Montana lands available for these animals’ groupings to expand, develop and become naturally sustaining in large prolific numbers as a part of Montana’s western heritage.  

To order learn more about local ingredients and cooking in Montana, order The Big Sky Bounty Cookbook: Local Ingredients & Rustic Recipes from Arcadia Publishing & The History Press.