Since I had a few extra days off over this long weekend, I was able to spend some time in the kitchen with the kids. This was the perfect opportunity for learning some new recipes and techniques. They aren’t always as thrilled about this as I am, because they know next week they might be asked to make this meal on their own. However, Brett won’t be asked to make this meal, because I don’t trust any kids – even really responsible 15 years olds – to deep fry or use lots of hot oil. Too Scary For Me! Anyway, we enjoyed working together, and we can always eat this chili out of a bowl with some cornbread muffins or focaccia bread beside it.
As a side note, the recipe for this fry bread came from a tiny restaurant (Twin Rocks Café) in Bluff, Utah. It is right on the edge of the Navajo Reservation. I am not absolutely sure that fry bread is an authentic Native American dish, but I do know it is delicious. Two other great ways to eat this bread: with butter and honey (yum.) or as a Sheepherder sandwich. A Sheepherder sandwich is made with fry bread, scrambled eggs, bacon and cheese folded as a taco. This restaurant is about 200 miles from my home. Yes I would drive that far to eat a Sheepherder sandwich – except I learned to make them at home. Now, if someone would only clean my kitchen for me afterwards……
Vegetarian Chili for Navajo Tacos
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, peeled and chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bell pepper, diced
1 quart tomatoes (2–16 ounce cans)
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons chili powder
6 cups cooked beans, drained or 4 cans beans, any type, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons salt
Saute onions, celery, garlic and bell pepper in olive oil until beginning to soften. Add tomatoes, water, beans, chili powder, and salt. Bring to a boil, turn to low, and allow to simmer while making fry bread.
Navajo Fry Bread
2 cups flour (we used half white and half whole wheat this time, but I prefer all white flour for a more tender taco)
¾ Tablespoons baking powder
½ cup powdered milk
1 cup warm water
Mix together all dry ingredients, and then add warm water all at once. Mix to make a very soft dough, then turn out on the counter to knead. That is the point at which this photo was taken: he doesn’t like pictures and he doesn’t like to be sticky. After kneading a few times, put the dough back into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Begin heating oil up to a depth of about 1 inch in a pan for frying the tacos.
Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a circle with your hands and then use a rolling pin to roll into an 8 inch circle. As the oil gets hot enough to fry the dough, it will begin to swirl and move in the pan. DO NOT FORGET THE OIL ON THE STOVE! IT CAN IGNITE! If your oil gets hot enough to smoke, remove it from the stove and wait until it is completely cool to dispose of it. When you think the oil is the right temperature, dip one edge of a taco into the oil. If it begins to fry, it is ready. Put the whole thing into the oil carefully. It will develop tiny bubbles all over the side you can see. In about one minute, turn over carefully with tongs. Allow to fry about 30 seconds more, then remove to a plate lined with paper towels. At this point, I always put the tacos in the oven at 170 degrees to keep warm while I fry the rest of the tacos. If you prefer, you can serve as they are fried. I prefer to have everyone eat together at the same time. (I feel persecuted if I am the last person in the family to eat.)
When the tacos are all fried, be sure and turn your oil off and move the oil carefully to a cool part of the stove. Place a taco shell on your plate, top with chili, shredded cheese, lettuce, sour cream and salsa – whatever you usually like on a taco.
Enjoy your meal.