Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Indian Fry Bread Tacos

The first time I had fry bread was at a Pow Wow at the University of Cal State Fullerton. I remember standing in line and watching the women fry pancake shaped dough in large, heavy skillets. I heard the dough sizzle, and I remember the smells of hot corn oil, fresh bread, honey and savory meats wafting through the parking lot. It didn't take long for the dough to puff up, prompting the women behind the stands to quickly flip them over. It was like watching funnel cake being fried at the county fair, except different. Unlike pimply faced teenagers only looking to make some summer cash, making fry bread was a labor of love for these American Indian women. 
UCLA Pow Wow - 2009

They were there to share their culture and to support their husbands, daughters, sisters and sons in the day's events. 

The history of fry bread is an intriguing and tragic one. Although considered "traditional," fry bread was created just in the mid-1800s by the Navajo people. In 1864, approximately 8,000 Navajos were forced to leave their tribal lands in Arizona to spend four years at a prison camp at Fort Sumner, New MexicoTheir livelihoods were destroyed, as U.S troops destroyed Navajo livestock, homes, crops and poisoned their water sources. 

UCLA Pow Wow - 2009
The march to Fort Sumner is known as "The Long Walk." Many perished along the way. The U.S. Government provided them with few supplies, which included lard and flour. With such poor rations, Navajo women had to do with what they could -- and thus, the Navajo fry bread was born.
Today, fry bread serves as a symbol of survival, unity and strength for Native American peoples all across the United States. Virtually all pow wows serve this multipurpose bread, as a treat with sweet ingredients like honey, powdered sugar and cinnamon, or it could also be eaten with savory meat toppings. 

This week, we present to you a tribute to the foods of indigenous Americans. Here, we offer the traditional Navajo fry bread recipe with a Mexican slant: shredded venison cooked in oregano, basil, garlic, onions and smoky chipotle, topped with fresh Mexican salsa and salty cotija cheese. Rick and I both hope that you enjoy this recipe. As always, we appreciate you coming to visit with us.

Servings: 2-4
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: about 1 1/2 hours
Fry Bread: (makes 6-8 breads)
- 3 cups of all-purpose flour, extra for dusting
- 1 tbs. baking powder
- 1 tsp. sea/kosher salt
- 1 1/4 cups of warm water
- 1-2 sticks of shortening, for frying
Shredded Venison
- 1 lb. venison roast, cut into 4 inch chunks
- 2 tbs. corn oil
- 1/2 small white onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 bay leaf
- kosher salt, to taste
- 2 cups of beef stock
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp. dried basil 
- 1-2 chipotle peppers packed in adobo sauce, chopped
- 1 cup of salsa (see below)
Mexican Salsa (makes 2 1/2 cups)
- 2 ripe tomatoes, diced
- 1/2 white onion, diced
- cilantro, chopped
- 1 serrano chile pepper, chopped finely (or to taste)
- 1-2 limes, juiced
- olive oil
- kosher salt, to taste

- Cotija Mexican cheese, or feta cheese (crumbled)

I. Shredded Venison
1. Sprinkle salt and pepper over venison roast. Heat 2 tbs. of corn oil in a dutch oven. Brown venison on all sides. Add chopped onion, bay leaf, garlic and beef broth into the pot. The broth should cover the venison. If not, add water to compensate. Bring to a boil, then lower down to a simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until venison is tender.

2. Once tender, strain venison pieces, garlic and onion from the cooking liquid. Shred the venison with a fork and spoon, or anything that works for you. Mix the strained garlic and onion into the meat.
3. In a dry, medium saucepan, heat the dried basil, oregano and some freshly ground black pepper for about 5 minutes over medium-low heat, or until lightly toasted.
4. Add the shredded venison, 1 cup of Mexican Salsa (see below), 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (to taste) and salt, if needed. Bring to a rolling boil, then lower heat to medium. Cook for 10 minutes. If the mixture is too dry, add cooking liquid from boiling the venison.

Reheat when ready to eat. 

II. Mexican Salsa
1. Combine onion, tomato, cilantro and the serrano chile pepper in a bowl.
2. Depending on your taste, mix in lime juice, a dash of olive oil and salt. Salsa- making was never meant to be an exact science. :-)

III. Indian Fry Bread
1. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, making sure the flour level is even on all sides of the circle.
2. Pour warm water into the middle of the flour. Slowly incorporate the flour into the water by scraping down flour from off the sides.
Work the dough until you can form a ball with it. When the dough becomes manageable, move it to a floured surface.
3. Roll it into a log, about 3 inches in diameter. Cover the dough with a towel and let it rest for 10 minutes. 
4. After you let the dough rest, cut it into desired portions and roll them into balls. They will not expand too much when you fry.
 5. Remember to dust your work surface well with flour because it will get sticky. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a little less than 1/4 inch thick circles -- so pretty thin. You can do them all at once, but be warned ... they are super sticky and can stick to each other very easily. Separate each with plastic wrap if you want to stack, or lay them spread out and not touching.
6. Heat shortening in a large skillet, about 1/2 inch deep. Once the oil is hot, fry the bread for about 2 minutes each side, or until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.
Note: You will probably end up with extra breads, which is great with honey, cinnamon and powdered sugar. Or, you can also double the shredded venison recipe.
Top fry bread with shredded venison, fresh salsa, cilantro and crumbled cotija cheese.

We hope that you will like this recipe. Thank you for being so awesome! We appreciate your comments.

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Day In Orange County: San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point

We love random adventures, so that's what we did yesterday. It was Friday morning and we had nothing planned. So we drove down to San Juan Capistrano, a quaint little town just a few miles from the coast.

San Juan Capistrano is home to the mission, the swallows and the famous Swallows Inn bar. We loved the small town feel and the sense of culture in the community.

San Juan Capistrano was bustling with life as locals and cowboys prepared for the Swallow's Day Parade, an annual celebration to welcome the swallows back to the city in Spring.
We planned on visiting the San Juan Capistrano Mission, one of many missions built along the coast of California between the 1700s and the 1800s. We both have been here before, separately. Rick visited when he was 10 years old, back in 1969. I visited when I was 10 years old, back in 2000.
Lucky for us, a nice passerby gave us free tickets!

On the grounds of the mission were areas where the padres, Spanish soldiers and the Acjachemen people worked hundreds of years ago.

In the garden were several vegetables, grown to feed those who lived at the mission. Farming was the most important industry for any mission.

Maize, barley and wheat were main staples at San Juan Capistrano. Back then, olives, grapes, melons and livestock, such as cattle, horses, mule, sheep and goats were also kept to sustain the mission.
Standing between two large tanning vats, used to soak animal hides.

Some of the mission has been renovated and restored, due to several earthquakes that have damaged many of the buildings and walls. 

But the mission still holds its original integrity, so much that you feel like you're walking back in time while visiting the mission's many adobe rooms.

The two smaller bells are original. They survived through the earthquake.

We fell in love with the courtyard, with its many beautiful spring flowers.

 Cactus were in bloom all over the grounds...

And dancing bees ... steadily working away among the flowers.

These were my favorite. 

And beautiful succulents ... 

There was a beautiful fountain, smack dab in the middle of the mission. The fountain is not original, but definitely adds aesthetic appeal.

Rick wondered if these were the same koi that he saw was when he was 10 years old. Koi can live for hundreds of years.

The mission's pantry. Some of the bottles were marked camphor, blue vitriol, sweet mercury and purging anise ... yikes. 

More normal stuff. Dried blue elderberry, saltpeter and willow bark. 

The mission still has an active church service. The alter is hundreds of years old, imported from Spain when the mission was first built.

The walls of the church that still stand today. We were awed by how big and thick the walls were, especially for 200 years ago. 

Then we got hungry, so we drove down to Dana Point, just a few miles from San Juan Capistrano. 

The pelicans know the fishing boats from the whale watching boats.

So naturally, they came to beg.

Jon's Fish Market, home of some of the freshest seafood you can get. On account of the market being located right on the docks.

Yum.... :-)
For dinner, we had fish/scallops and chips. Sooo good. And so fresh!! 

In conclusion: If you guys come out to California, don't just go to Disneyland. The best places are local and full of history. We're from Orange County, and a lot of people think places outside of the big city are boring and sleepy. But the thing is, Los Angeles is overrated. California is full of history and fun (real fun). You just gotta make an effort to find it.

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