Monday, June 4, 2012

Meatless Monday: "Navajo" Tacos

I put the word Navajo in quotation marks for two good reasons:

1.  I'm not sure how authentically Native American my recipe for them truly is. I mean, I do happen to be 1/32 Native American (Ute, to be specific), but the recipe I follow is more like the Navajo tacos sold in my beautiful hometown of Midway, during the annual festival called Swiss Days. Yes, there is actually a booth there (and the line is usually really long) that sells "Swiss Navajo tacos".  In fact, I spent hours in that booth every Labor Day weekend as a teenager, working in the assembly line, either stirring hot vats of beans, scooping salsa, or placing sliced tomatoes on top of the steaming fry bread (which my dad still helps make every year. If you peek inside, he's the handsome, bearded guy by the fryer.). Nothing says, "Let's celebrate our European heritage!" like a ginormous Navajo taco and a soda. Mmmmm.

2.  My neighbor and friend, Teresa, is Navajo. She makes the fry bread the way she was taught: using her hands as her only measuring tools. She even uses a special flour you can only buy in New Mexico. Teresa made Navajo tacos for my family after my baby was born last year. A-MAZ-ING.  The ones I make are not as good as hers. I've found myself tempted to sit across the street from her house with a cardboard sign that reads, "Will work for Navajo tacos". They were that delicious.


Navajo tacos are a great meatless meal because they are filling! The combination of the fry bread, beans, cheese, and vegetables makes a complete meal. It's also really easy and adaptable.

Let's start with the fry bread (or, as they're called in Utah, scones. Don't ask me why.):

To make the fry bread (adapted from this recipe I found a while back), you'll need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk (not too cold; lukewarm is best)

Mix the dry ingredients and then add the milk. Once the dough has come together in a ball, turn it out onto a floured surface (if you need to add a little more flour to get to this point, add it).

Knead the dough until it is smooth and then divide into chunks. I split mine into four good-sized pieces. You can make yours as big or as small as you want or need to. Shape each chunk into a round, flattened piece, with the center stretched out thinner than the rest. (If you make a hole in the center of the dough while doing this, it's still fine.)

Lots of the recipes I've read recommend using shortening to fry the bread. Since I avoid the stuff as much as possible (though I do use non-hydrogenated shortening for a couple recipes that absolutely require it), I used canola oil and they turned out just fine. Heat the oil in a deep pot (no specific amount since it depends on the pot or pan you're using. My oil was around 2-3 inches deep).  I always use a trick I learned from Rachael Ray to tell if oil is hot enough for frying: stick the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil and if the bubbles rapidly roll away from the handle, it's ready.  Fry the dough until golden on both sides. Let the fry bread drain on paper towels. If you don't use paper towels (we haven't used them for years, but we happened to have some from my husband's stash that he keeps for oil painting), you can put them on a wire rack with a plate underneath.

Once your fry bread is ready, the next step is the toppings!

This is where this dinner gets really easy and adaptable because can you use whatever you have on hand, whatever your family likes, or whatever sounds good to you. For ours, we top the tacos with warmed beans (I've used meatless homemade chili, canned chili, and canned beans mixed with salsa, all with great results - again, use what you have), grated cheese (we like Colby-Jack), lettuce (this latest batch, though, had some spinach and Swiss chard from the yard on them), tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.

They may not be authentic, but they sure are tasty!

{This post is linked up to Homestead Barn Hop, Your Green Resource, Adorned from Above Blog Hop, and Little House Friday.}


Tara said...

That looks sooooo tasty! I can't wait to try them. And Teresa's are amazing. Maybe we can pay her to make some for us. Have I told you about the navajo burger she made? To die for.

Debi said...

These look amazing. I would love for you to post a link to my Wednesday Adorned From Above Blog Hop. The link is listed below.

I just printed out your recipe to make them.

Debi Bolocofsky
Adorned From Above

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Oklahoma, where these were called "Indian tacos" and not attributed to any specific tribe. Regardless of authenticity, they sure are tasty! Thanks for the instructions. I had no idea there was milk in fry bread.

Debi said...

Thank you so much for linking with my Wednesday Adorned From Above Blog Hop. I printed this recipe out yesterday. I am really excited to try it. I hope you will check back next Wednesday and link up again.

Enjoy your weekend.
Debi Bolocofsky

Erika Marsh said...

Navajo tacos are the best! I love making them...haven't in a while though- you post reminded me of how much we love them. I think we'll make some soon! :)

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