Sonoran Beef Fry Bread Tacos
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 The stark beauty of the Southwest. Photo by my father, Peter Shetler.

The stark beauty of the Southwest. Photo by my father, Peter Shetler.

During my early adolescents, my family lived on a farm in rural Southwestern Colorado, just outside the small town of Dove Creek. Food trucks selling Navajo Fry Bread, either savory as tacos or sweet with honey and butter, were a fixture at all community events. The food of the Southwest blends the culinary cultures of its peoples: Native American, Mexican, and European-heritage. This dynamic cultural mixing has produced bold flavored dishes that can be made on a shoestring budget. My favorite dish from this tradition is Sonoran Beef Fry Bread Tacos. The delicate crispy fry bread, topped with rich spicy meat and tangy fresh salsa is a winning combination. We've made it for Thanksgiving gatherings and informal evenings with friends, and it has been a crowd favorite every time. This dish requires some planning ahead for the meat to reach perfection.  The Fry Bread will require suspending deep-frying phobias. When fried properly (maintaining high cooking temperature throughout), you will be rewarded with an addictive light and crispy flat bread without any greasiness. Our take on this Southwest classic is inspired by Fernando and Marlene Divina's outstanding cookbook Foods of the Americas

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Yield: Serves 8 

Ingredients:

   Sonoran Beef

  • 3 pounds beef brisket, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups chicken broth

   Sauce

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon sage
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup tomato salsa (we recommend homemade)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

   Fry bread

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water
  • oil for frying

Steps:

  1. In a medium bowl mix together the Sonoran Beef marinade ingredients (onion, garlic, bay, salt, chicken broth). Combine the marinade and beef brisket in a heavy zip-top bag, and marinate overnight (6-12 hours). If you have a meat injector, inject about 1/2 cup of the marinade into the brisket, with injection points every 1-2 inches apart. The injection step is optional, but it will bring the marinade flavor deeper into the meat.
  2. When you are ready to slow roast the meat, dispose of the used marinade. Set your oven (or smoker ideally) to 220 and roast for 6 hours. I prefer this smoked lightly with mesquite wood, but oven roasting will also work well.
  3. Remove the roasted meat from the heat and allow to cool. When it is cool enough to touch, shred the meat using your hands or forks (whichever is easier for you).
  4. In a pot large enough to easily hold the shredded meat, toast the sauce spices (paprika, Mexican oregano, black pepper, thyme,  and sage) over medium heat for 1-2 minutes (until fragrant). Add the chicken broth, salsa, garlic powder, and onion powder. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Add the shredded meat and allow to simmer on low (uncovered) for 1 hour. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to serve.
  5. For the Fry Bread: In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the warm water, and mix gently by hand until it forms a smooth uniform dough. It is a wet dough. Divide the dough into 8 roughly even balls, cover, and allow to rest for 15 minutes while you heat the oil.
  6. Fill a heavy pot with 3 inches of oil. You want to use a flavorless high heat oil, like canola. Heat the oil to 360 degrees. You really want to use a thermometer for this if you have one. Frying in oil that is too cold results is greasy food, frying in oil that is too hot results in acrid burnt flavors and an overcooked exterior. Once you have turned the heat on your oil, do not leave it unattended. 
  7. On a floured surface, roll each of the 8 dough balls out. They should be about 7 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick.
  8. Maintaining an oil temperature of 350-360 degrees, fry the bread one at a time for approximately 2 minutes on each side. They should puff up, and just barely start to take on color. When done, set on a drying rack to cool.
  9. Serve the Sonoran Beef Fry Bread Tacos immediately. We recommend a healthy topping of fresh salsa.
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