Friday, March 4, 2011

The Food Desert Project - Creek Frybread Tacos


Ordinarily, I go out of my way to make sure the foods I make for this project are healthier than most.  However, sometimes a food has historical or cultural significance that makes me want to include it, and frybread is one of those foods: it personifies the ingenuity of Native Americans when presented with subpar government surplus foods.  There's a lot of discussion about the negative effects of frybread on health - and it's cultural's not easy to weigh the two - but be aware that 1 serving of frybread may have as much as 25 grams of fat.

I was charmed by the idea of Navajo tacos (AKA Indian tacos, puffy tacos, or Apache tacos) which after all are the byproduct of a lack of resources similar to the food desert, so I went online looking for a frybread recipe - and, of course, there were thousands.  One in particular: "Creek frybread" struck me as interesting, as it uses buttermilk (and even White Lily flour in one recipe.) These ingredients, as they're staples in the American southeast, struck me as odd coming from a group living primarily in Oklahoma.  Lo and behold, a little research showed that the Creek nation (a name given to several groups of Native Americans) was originally indigenous to the Southeastern United States, driven west to Alabama in the 1600s, and then to Oklahoma in the 17-1800s, but obviously not before "American Southern" cuisine influenced their cooking.

This is fortunate for us - first of all, the recipe is simple enough to carry around in your head, and you can probably whip this up out of your pantry right now, second, it's as delicious as it is indulgent, and at least the dough doesn't contain fat:

Food Desert Creek Frybread Tacos

2 cups of flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk (food desert variation - 1/2 cup milk mixed with 1/2 cup plain yogurt)
1" of oil of your choice in a cast-iron skillet or dutch oven

Whisk together dry ingredients to lighten and add buttermilk.  Stir until a stiff batter is formed (probably easiest to oil your hands and get them in there)  Flour your surface and the top of the dough well, and roll out to about 1/4 inch thick.

At this point, one recipe directed to cut 4" squares with a slit in the middle, which I did - but I can't find any other evidence to support the rectangular taco; most frybread is oval in shape (though a hole in the center seems universal.)

2495976798_3e7ebe9707_m.jpgI fried them in my dutch oven, turning when it started to bubble, in quite a bit of oil - but they could easily have been done in less fat in my skillet; they need just enough to float.

What I came up with were lovely, bready, golden-brown cakes that were easy to fold over; I can think of all kinds of applications for these - they're more like bread than like their biscuit ancestors and would make a terrific sandwich of any kind, or fabulous Cinnamon Bread (otherwise known as a sopaipilla.)

For some reason, my first thought was a Cuban sandwich, as the bright ingredients would be a good foil for the rich dough)  I highly recommend them.


Cool slightly and fill - in keeping with the Food Desert theme, ours were filled simply but not authentically with refried beans, salsa, sour cream and cheddar.

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