Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Navajo Fry Bread
Several years ago, I read a few of Tony Hillerman's mysteries, set on the vast Navajo Indian Reservation, featuring the legendary detective Joe Leaphorn and the younger and impetuous tribal police lieutenant Jim Chee. I loved reading the descriptions of the American Southwest landscape and about the customs of the Navajo.
Of course my interest is always piqued when novels contain passages about cooking, eating, and food. In the Hillerman books, Navajo Fry Bread was talked about frequently and almost became a character itself in my mind.
I tried my hand at making it but it was a terrible flop.
Currently, I am reading The Round House by Louise Erdrich, an author who chronicles life on the Objibwe Reservation in North Dakota. Once again fry bread is featured.
I decided to try again; this time with better results. This is probably not traditional at all, and I would welcome a recipe that is. I used baking powder for rise and a small amount of yeast for taste. A great boost in flavor, and probably more traditional, would come from frying in animal fat. I didn't have lard so I used peanut oil, which is quite flavorful.
Navajo Fry Bread
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup warm milk
1 Tbsp. melted butter
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, yeast, and salt. Stir in the milk and butter until well blended and a stiff dough forms. Add a little more milk, if needed. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for about 30 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times. Divide the dough into 12 balls. Roll each ball into a 6-inch diameter circle.
Heat about 1 inch of oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the flattened dough circles flipping with tongs until well browned on each side. Drain on paper towels.
Serve the breads with soups or salads. Great to use for tacos. I made breakfast tacos with spinach scrambled eggs topped with cheese, salsa, and sour cream.