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Navajo Fry Bread and Tacos
I first had Navajo Fry Bread, often called Indian Fry Bread, along with steak, pinto beans, and salad at a dinner at the Kowboy Kountry Klub in Flagstaff, Arizona back when I was a kid. We just tore pieces off the bread and ate it like rolls. It was very tasty, and went great with dinner. Also good for soaking up the bean juice.
Navajo fry bread is also delicious at breakfast time, eaten like Mexican sopapillas, with honey drizzled over them or sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Try it, you'll like it!
Here you'll learn to make the fry bread, and while you're at it, make some extra for some Navajo Tacos. Navajo tacos aren't folded like Mexican tacos, and actually look a little more like little pizzas. Whatever else you call them, call them delicious!
World headquarters for Navajo Fry Bread and Navajo Tacos was the Tuba City Truck Stop Cafe, up in Tuba City, Arizona. Tuba City is on a huge Indian reservation, and both Navajo and Hopi Indians would congregate there, either in their cowboy working clothes or in their colorful native dress. The ladies always wore velvet dresses or tops with lots of silver and turquoise jewelry. Even the men had silver and turquoise belt buckles and wrist watches, and, for formal occasions, bolo ties.
Palefaces like us were always welcome, and some folks would drive miles for their delicious cheeseburgers and Navajo Tacos. The place isn't there anymore, unfortunately. Several decades ago some underground fuel tanks leaked, and in spite of the owners spending about $2 million, it wasn't enough. So the EPA, which evidently does not have an Historical Places branch, closed 'em down in 2002. Not many of us drive that far to watch the digging that's going on.
Anyhow, I saved a newspaper article that told how they made their fry bread, and their tacos as well. Now you can make this delicious treat at home. Too bad you'll miss the atmosphere, and getting to hear the Navajos and Hopis discussing the events of the day in their own languages. But you sure don't have to drive as far!
The recipes for the fry bread always call for a little powdered milk, and there's a reason for that. When you get out on the range or the reservation, you don't need milk spoiling, and there are lots of cowboy bread and biscuit recipes calling for powdered milk. But you probably don't have any, and it's not necessary for you to go to the trouble of buying some. Because when you add water to powdered milk you get -- surprise -- milk! So I've slightly reduced the water in the recipe, added milk, and eliminated the powdered milk.
So here's the recipe for Navajo Fry Bread:
2 cups flour
Mix the dry ingredients together, and cut in the butter using forks or a whisk. Add most of the liquid, and knead the dough until it becomes smooth and pliable. If you get too much liquid and it's sticky, add some more flour. It shouldn't stick to your fingers or your cutting board.
Roll a ball about 2 inches in diameter, and pat it out to form a thin pancake shape. Fry it in hot oil or lard for a couple of minutes on each side until it gets nice and brown.
As you can see in the photo above, you won't get graded on how circular they turn out to be. The small pieces were made from golf ball sized pieces. Drain them on paper towels and keep them in the bread drawer for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
For Navajo Tacos, use a ball of dough about three inches in diameter, to make a plate-sized piece of bread.
Here's the recipe for about four Navajo Tacos:
1 can of chili and beans, heated
Spread the chili over the fry bread and garnish with the other ingredients. Serve with your favorite salsa or hot sauce.
These were a huge hit with all ages, when I served them the other night. Mother-in-Law said to make them as often as I can. And she's not even a Navajo.
Incidentally, during a recent visit to Pancho's Restaurant in Cabo San Lucas, I met a lady who was purchasing cook books from Pancho's gift store and giving them to her lunch guests. She turned out to be Anne O'Brien, who is also an author, having written "Traveling Indian Arizona". After returning home to San Diego, I ordered her book from Amazon, and enjoyed it a great deal. In fact we will make use of it during an upcoming motor trip to Northern Arizona and Southern Utah with the kids and grandkids later this summer. If you want to learn more about the Navajos and Hopis (and all the other Arizona Indians), buy her book.
The book Anne was giving to her friends is a book I also have, called "Cooking with Baja Magic", by Ann Hazard. I also recommend her book, and the subsequent book "Cooking with Baja Magic Dos". Both books include the famous Tortilla Soup recipe from Pancho's! Of course you can also get Anne's books from Amazon.
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