I remember as a young girl heading back home from a family picnic on warm summer day in Jemez Springs, the highlight of the trip was stopping for fry-bread at one of the road side markets. I couldn't wait until we got home and my mom would make Indian Tacos. Depending upon where in New Mexico you are from you may call it a Navajo taco, Pueblo taco or Tewa taco, which really isn't a taco but more like a tostada. But it doesn't matter what you call it, it is still delicious!
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 3/4 to 1 cup chopped roasted New Mexican green chile, fresh or thawed frozen
- 2 cups cooked whole pinto beans (drained)
- 2 cup shredded lettuce
- Navajo fry bread (ingredients and instructions below)
- 16 ounces (2 cups) shredded mild cheddar cheese
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced
- 3 cups soft wheat pastry or biscuit flour, or all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder (reduced by 1/2 teaspoon at altitudes above 5,000 feet)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon milk powder, optional
- 1 1/4 cup warm water
- vegetable oil, lard or vegetable shortening fro frying
- confectioners sugar (Optional)
For Filling: Warm skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and 1/2 teaspoon salt. (Traditionally, most Dine' and Pueblo dishes use very little salt). Break up the meat with a spatula as it browns. When the meat has lost its raw color, add onion and continue to cook for several minutes, until the onion is translucent and soft.
Reduce heat to medium low, stir in the chile and beans and simmer for about 5 minutes. The filling should remain moist but not dripping with liquid. Add more salt if you wish. Keep warm.
Assembly: Spoon equal portions of filling on each fry bread to within about 1 inch of the bread's outside edge.
Scatter lettuce, cheese and tomatoes equally over each taco and serve right away.
Indian Bread: Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees F.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and optional milk powder in a large bowl. Add the water, about ¼ cup at a time, working the liquid into the flour with your fingers. The dough will be sticky at first. Keep working it until it becomes soft and pliable and no longer sticks to your fingers or the bowl.
Knead the dough on a flour-covered surface for several minutes. Work from the outer edges into the center as you knead. Let the dough rest, covered with a damp cloth, for 15 minutes.
Form the dough into 6 or 8 balls. Let them sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then pat and push each ball down into a ½ -inch-thick disk. Take the first dough disk in your hands and stretch it into a pizza-dough-like round of 9 to 10 inches. If you wish, poke a small hole in the center of the dough, a vestige from the days when the breads were turned in the fryer with a stick. Our dough often seems to get a hole in it from our handling of it so we usually don’t make on in its center on purpose. Repeat with the remaining dough balls. If you need to stack the rounds to have room for the whole batch, place wax paper between them.
Pour about d1 inch of oil (or melt lard) into a heavy, high sided saucepan or skillet. Warm the oil over medium heat until it is shimmering but not smoking. Carefully transfer a round to the oil. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Flip the bread (we like an oversize fork for this) and cook 1 or 2 minutes, until golden. Drain on paper towels. Place in the oven on a baking sheet and cover with a clean dish towel. Repeat the cooking process with the remaining fry breads and keep them warm in the oven until all are ready. (Once you are skilled, you can fry the first bread with forming the second, and so on.)
The side of each fry bread that was cooked first will have more of the desirable uneven bubbles than the second. Dust the more nubbly, bubbly side of each with confectioners’ sugar and serve right away.
Variations: Fry bread is frequently served with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar or a smear of honey instead of powdered sugar. It can also be eaten in a more savory style, with salt or garlic salt. Whether sweet or savory, ground sunflower seed kernels, ground or whole, can be sprinkled over the top just as it comes out of the hot oil.