This post marks Day 21 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.
Since today marks the first day of Hanukkah (as well as the shortest day of the year), I thought it'd be appropriate to commemorate the miracle of the oil with a frybread recipe... a treat for anyone, really.
It's interesting to note that just about any culture that eats bread has its own version of frybread.
The classic Donut. Southern Hushpuppies. South American Sopaipillas. Spanish Churros. Indian Poori. Japanese Tenkasu. Chinese Youtiao. Eastern European Pirozhki. Kazakh baursak. Israeli Sufganiyot... and so on.
I'm assuming that the universality of the method has to do with:
1.) accessibility — not everyone has an oven.
2.) ease — whip it up in minutes; all you need is a pot of hot oil.
3.) tastiness — just about anything tastes good when fried.
Since I grew up attending a lot of powwows and rodeos, frybread was always a part of my cultural landscape.
Frybread tacos. Frybread and honey. Frybread and cinnamon sugar. Frybread and wojapi (see below for more on that).
After all, it's the official state bread of my people. (Not to mention the source of some controversy.) While it's certainly not an everyday food, frybread is most definitely a tasty special occasion food.
My favorite recipe for frybread (sometimes called bannock) is a Chippewa version that's made with meat drippings... mmm! It's really best when it features that savory angle, but if you can't take the meat, I've got a reliable (albeit less umami-filled) substitution.
Wojapi (WHOA-jza-pee) is a delicious dark berry sauce that's sometimes served as a dipping sauce with frybread.
The stuff I ate as a kid was almost always made with wild chokecherries, but you could easily use little wild plums or blueberries or blackberries or whatever dark fruits you happen to have around.
Very Basic Wojapi (Makes about 1 pint)I like to use canola oil for frying because it doesn't smoke as readily as many other oils, but use what you have and try to monitor the heat so your oil doesn't burn.
2 cups of dark fruit/berries
1/2 cup sugar or honey
1/8 cup water
1. In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, combine fruit, sugar or honey and water.
2. Simmer slowly, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
3. Serve immediately or, if using cherries or plums, allow the sauce to cool to room temperature before removing any pits or seeds. Then rewarm to serve with hot frybread.
Savory Frybread (Serves 4-6)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
5 Tbsp meat drippings (or substitute 4 Tbsp milk + 1/2 tsp salt + 1 Tbsp vegetable oil)
3/4 cup water
Extra flour (for kneading)
Melted lard (preferably) or Canola oil (for frying)
1. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder.
2. Add the meat drippings (or milk/salt/oil) and water. Mix well.
3. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and knead lightly.
4. Pat the dough out into a 1/2" layer and slice into 2" strips or squares. If you're making tacos, cut larger pieces and puncture each piece in its center for ventilation.
5. Pour the frying oil in a deep skillet or heavy-bottomed pot so that it reaches 3/4" to 1" up the side of the pan, and set a paper towel-covered wire rack on a baking sheet (for cooling the hot frybread).
6. Heat the pot/pan until the oil is between 350°F and 375°F — at this point, a small dough ball dropped into the oil will immediately begin to bubble and cook, but the oil won't be smoking. Maintain this temperature throughout frying.
7. Carefully drop the dough into the oil with metal tongs, one or two pieces at a time.
8. Cook dough 3 to 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Move cooked frybread to the prepared cooling rack while you fry the rest. Serve warm with honey, cinnamon sugar, wojapi sauce or traditional taco fillings.
If you don't have the time (or the berries) to make wojapi, you can thin down some berry preserves with water and adjust the flavor with a little lemon juice to give the sauce a balance of sweetness and tartness, to your taste.