Indian Tacos Are My Favorite Indulgence

| 4/21/2014 9:27:00 AM

Renee-Lucie BenoitI first heard about Indian Tacos while driving up through the Owens Valley of California one hot windy day. The eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada was on one side and the western flank of the White Mountains was on the other. We were traveling north on our way from Walt’s Point back to Bishop. In Lone Pine or thereabouts, I spied a vendor on the side of CA395. The sign – in handwritten letters – said “Indian Tacos.” What was that I wondered and immediately my interest was piqued. I like Mexican food in every shape, way or form. But Indian Tacos? I had never heard of those.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try them that day. My companions in the truck were too "destinated" on the next hang glider launch site. So I wondered and pined after Indian Tacos for years until I found a cookbook called Real American Food by Jane and Michael Stern. There, on Page 296, was a recipe for “The Ultimate Navajo Taco.” Not knowing anything and never having tried anything like this before, I was nevertheless too enthused to worry about making a mistake so I immediately set about making them.

Since then I have had Indian Tacos many times and in a lot of places. Not often. They’re impossibly caloric so you save them for special occasions when you’ve been good and exercised a little prior-calorie stinginess. They’re just like a regular taco in every way except one. What makes them special is FRY BREAD. Instead of the customary tortilla, fry bread is the base.

Now fry bread – to me – is an art and a science. In some ways a commercial vendor has a leg up on the average person. They have the large, temperature controlled fry vats. The average family can’t duplicate this. However, if you get yourself a good cooking thermometer, buy the right kind of oil and have a deep kettle you can do it, too. Native Americans traditionally make the fry bread over an open fire. It’s really not rocket science so don’t sweat it.

The secret to fry bread is making it fresh and hot every time. Cold fry bread is not nice.

Here is my favorite recipe from the Real American Food cookbook. I’ve used it many times over the years, and this version is tweaked a bit to make it more user friendly. Writer’s Note: this is not my image. I was too busy eating and forgot to take my own photograph! But it looks like a taco I would have made!