Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fry Bread, for Indian Tacos or other nefarious purposes

Pop and the Bat have taken a couple of vacations to the Southwest, during which times, they have had occasion to sample some of the local chefs' versions of Navajo Fry Bread and Indian Tacos.  The Bat says that, if you ever get out to see the Grand Canyon, the place to stop is Cameron Trading Post... for more than just their awesome eats, but that's a great place to start.  Their fry bread is, to borrow a description from one of the kids in my neighborhood, "monster HUUUUUGE," and awesomely tasty.  

Having sampled this treat as a main dish and a dessert (I get to eat it when I hit the regional Powwows), I have developed a bit of a taste for it, myself, and decided to give it a go in our kitchen, too.    We had our usual Friday company for supper, last week, and served them a variation on that theme...

Now, when most of you fix tacos, you usually use ground meat, upon which you pour a mix of seasons and let it simmer for a few minutes before serving.  We aren't big fans of the flavor of most of those burger-laden varieties, especially when we have a perfectly good half a roast in the refrigerator, having been left over from the night before.   I shaved that up into very thin slices, cut again across the grain, so that I had strips approximately 3 millimeters thick by 1 centimeter wide by 15 centimeters long. I put together a chipotle spiced marinade mix,  the juice of one fresh lime, olive oil and water (proportions are based on the pre-fab marinade mix instructions, but slightly more water)all in a zipper storage bag, and added in the meat, tossing it into the refrigerator for about two hours.  While that steeped in its juices, I finely chopped tomatoes, onions, lettuce (we used romaine), and olives, putting each in its own covered dish in the refrigerator.   I made certain I had refried black beans topped with a sprinkling of shredded cheese (heat before serving), plus a guacamole "ketchup," homemade salsa, and some sour cream (greek-style yogurt with a little lime juice and honey makes a reasonable substitute), all waiting to go on the table. 

Then came time to prep the fry bread.  

Note:  Traditional Navajo fry bread uses powdered milk.  We didn't have any, because nobody much cares for it in our house.  On the other hand, we did have powdered buttermilk, making for an even more decadent version of the classic, while still keeping the calories lower (as if we were worried about this, in a fried food)... we recommend the buttermilk for its sweetness.  We also prefer to cook in lard, but, if you have issues with this, you may substitute Crisco or even cooking oil.  Just know, this will, necessarily, change the flavor.

Fry Bread

Ingredients:2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup powdered buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup water
about 2 cups shortening (for frying)
extra flour (to keep the dough from sticking to your hands

Directions:Begin to preheat shortening in a deep fryer, large frying pan, or deep wok, aiming for about 350º F.  You need at least one inch depth to your shortening, so you will need to amend the measurement according to which pot or pan you use.

In a medium bowl, sift together dry ingredients.  Pour the water over the mixture all at once, mixing with whisk or fork until it begins to form one large mass.

Make sure your hands are clean, then flour them well.   Using your hands, gently work the dough in the bowl (do not knead, or the bread will become heavy), until it begins to form a slightly sticky ball.  

Divide the ball of dough into eight (8) equal pieces.  With floured hands, shape a piece of dough into a rough approximation of a six-inch diameter disk (don't worry if it's not exactly round.  This is a fun bread, not some uptight wheel of reason).  Poke a small hole in the center, gently place the flattened piece of dough into the hot oil (to avoid spattering).  

Fry until golden-brown (about 3 minutes or slightly more), then flip it to fry the other side.  The bread will be lumpy.  Do not worry about unevenness, as it's a feature, not a bug.  

Place the fry bread on a paper towel to absorb the excess shortening.  Serve hot.  If you have to set aside, place in 200º F oven for up to 1 hour before serving.

Further note: I am told you can save leftovers in the refrigerator overnight, and revitalize them in a 350º oven, 10 minutes or so.  I have never had enough left over to make this experiment possible.

When it comes time to serve the tacos, there is no folding the fry bread (unless you are overly ambitious).  Treat it as an open-faced sandwich, if you will. Pile on your favorite taco ingredients, slice it up with a knife and eat it with a fork.  Or, make a big mess and enjoy, anyway.

If, on the other hand, you don't want to do tacos, this makes a naughty dessert, as well.  You can dust it with powdered sugar or  cinnamon sugar, drizzle it with honey or fruit syrup/jelly/jam, or pile on your favorite berries/peaches/other tender fruits.  If you haven't tried it this way, but you've been to a county fair somewhere in the Midwest, think of this as a much tastier version of funnel cakes, and treat it as such.  Your tongue will love you, and your hips will resent every bite...

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