Friday, June 6, 2014

Navajo Tacos

Until well into my teens, I had no idea that the British had laid claim
centuries before I was born, to the "scone", a dry biscuit concoction
that had to be served with tea just to wash it down.  How could this be,
I wondered and assumed the English were unfortunately mistaken but
then when I considered that an entire Brisith nation was confused,
I confess, I had to question my assumptions about food origins.  In my
search for the truth, I looked inwardly to examine my own culinary 
heritage, a heritage that included pioneers crossing the plains in covered 
wagons with yeast and flour preciously stored in cushioned barrels. 
My mother carried on the pioneer tradition and called these fried, golden
yeast squares, "scones".  As her mother had done before her, she taught 
me how to stretch the dough a bit just before cooking, to ensure
the scones rose with a pillowy puff in their middles as they cooked.
In my imaginings, I could  make it work; the pioneers' encounters with 
Native Americans were for the most part friendly...
perhaps even included exchanges of culinary techniques?  Regardless,
stubbornly I continue to defend my heritage and proclaim scones to be
thinly rolled yeast (roll) dough, cut into squares and deep fried until
golden.  Versatility allows them to be served with butter, or if
in the mood for a sweet version with honey, jam or powdered sugar.
Often, family Sunday dinners are scones and soup, the only variable
being the kind of soup served. (I confess to being a bit of a softy - 
preparing 2 - 3 different soups to satisfy 6 diverse clamoring appetites.)
Which leads me happily to this recipe.  Indian Fry Bread was here
first...and certainly Mexican influence saw taco potential in the
flat round bread... and just as 2 + 2= 4,  Navajo, Mexican and
Scones = Navajo Tacos!  Served at county fairs, amusement parks
and rodeo days concessions in western states they are a creation
worthy of their ancestry - even though the pedigree chart may be
somewhat complicated to follow!
And as to the British scone (which I have ultimately,
learned to savor) I just call them "Tea Biscuits".  Problem solved!

Navajo Tacos

    2 tab. dry yeast
    1/4 cup lukewarm water
    2 cups boiling water
    1/3 cup sugar
    2 tab. shortening
    2 tab. butter
    1 tab. salt
    2 eggs
    5 cups flour, approximately

     -Sprinkle yeast over 1/4 cup lukewarm water in small bowl. 
Set aside for 5 minutes.  In large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups boiling water, sugar, shortening, butter and salt.  Mix briefly and allow to cool to lukewarm.  Stir in dissolved yeast and eggs.  Mix well.  Add flour as necessary to make dough easy to handle.  Knead for 5 minutes by hand or with electric mixer with the dough hook.  

     -Place dough in a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let sit in warm place or in the oven on "bread proofing" setting for about 1 1/2 hours, or dough may be refrigerated 8 hours or overnight. (This longer process allows dough to rise slowly.)

     -When ready to use, punch the dough down and roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a floured surface.  Let dough rest 10 minutes then cut into 3 - 4 inch squares, or rectangles.  Let dough rest another 30 minutes.

     -Heat vegetable oil to about 375 degrees in deep fryer or large, deep skillet or dutch oven.  Place dough squares carefully onto hot oil, pulling and stretching slightly just before.  Cook until golden brown on first side and scone puffs up in the middle.  (Sometimes the squares do not puff.....they are still delicious, so serve them anyway.)  Turn squares with tongs to the other side and continue to cook until golden (about 3- 4 minutes total cooking time).  Place on paper towels.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

     To create Navajo Tacos, serve scones with:

          -browned and seasoned ground beef, (season with salt, 
            pepper, garlic powder, minced onion, chili powder and 
          -chili with beans, or pinto or black beans
          -chopped onions, tomatoes, olives
          -shredded lettuce
          -shredded cheddar or jack cheese
          -sour cream
          -peeled and diced avocado
          -chopped cilantro

       -Place warm ground beef and chili or beans on top of
        scone and garnish with toppings as desired.

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