Call me a glutton, but the first thing I do at any powwow is quickly scan the area. I’m searching for the tent, the one with all the women underneath – usually several generations of them – toiling over balls of sticky dough, hot oil and pots of steaming meat. They are making the iconic fry bread, a slightly crispy and chewy flatbread that is part of some Native American cultures.
Most powwows occur outside, and after several hours in the sun and smelling the aromas of spiced meat and fresh bread curling around the circles, you work up a good appetite. A hearty fry bread taco generously topped with ground meat, beans and cheese more than hits the spot.
You might think the meat in this particular recipe resembles that of taco night at your house, and you’d be right. I thought about simmering venison hindquarter in a complex sauce of roasted peppers, herbs and spices, but I decided not to. It wouldn’t have been authentic. The recipes I’ve seen generally consist of simply seasoned ground meat with the addition of chili beans. This is also consistent with what I’ve seen prepared at powwows.
Fry Bread Tacos
Servings: 4 (8 tacos)
- 1 lb of ground venison
- 1 tsp of sea/kosher salt
- 2 tsp of vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup of chopped onion
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tsp of chili powder
- 1 tsp of sweet paprika
- ½ tsp of cumin
- 1 tsp of onion powder
- 1 tsp of dried oregano
- 1 cup of Mrs. Grimes Original Chili Beans, or your favorite brand/recipe
- Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- Toppings: sour cream, diced tomato, shredded lettuce, pickled red onion, chopped cilantro, shredded cheddar cheese, hot sauce, etc.
Fry Bread Ingredients:
- 3 cups of all-purpose flour, extra for dusting
- 1 tbs of baking powder
- 1 tsp of sea/kosher salt
- 1¼ cups of warm water
- 2 sticks of shortening
- In a skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Next, add minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Then add venison, and brown, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt, chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, oregano and cracked pepper. Stir in chili beans and cook until warmed through. Take off heat and set aside.
- To make the fry bread, combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, and then pour in the warm water. Gradually work the flour and water together to make dough. It should be fairly sticky. Sprinkle in more water or flour as necessary. Knead until you can form a manageable ball.
- Turn out dough onto a floured surface. Roll dough into a log and divide into 8 equal pieces. Place dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and then cover with plastic wrap to prevent dough from drying out.
- In a cast iron skillet, heat 2 sticks of shortening until the temperature reaches 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Flatten a dough ball into a ¼-inch-thick circle with the palm of your hand or with a rolling pin – remember to flour your work surface and your hands. Carefully drop the rolled-out dough into the hot oil, and cook on both sides until golden. Drain, keep warm (in an oven on the warm setting) and repeat with the rest of the dough balls.
- Reheat venison and bean mixture if necessary. Stir in a splash of water if mixture looks dry. Assemble warm fry breads with meat, beans and desired toppings. Fry bread is best served warm. They will harden if kept too long.
Photos by author