Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Flatbread Fanaticism Week Day #3: Frybread Redemption

Today I'm allowing my imagination to run wild.  Please be patient.

I went to the crossroads, fell down on my knees
I went to the crossroads, fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above, have mercy now, save poor Bob if you please
      ***Robert Johnson
It may have been the smoky odor that still lingered in the house after yesterday's picnic wrap disaster. Or maybe the visions of my gnarled wraps (For the record, each wrap resembled fake, rubber vomit in appearance and texture) that danced through my head spawned last night's dream. Who knows what strange magic fuels our dreams?

In my dream I'm standing at the crossroads of two rural Mississippi roads. It's a sultry, full-mooned evening, and Satan smokes a cigarette as he leans against a late 70's primer-gray Trans Am complete with t-tops. He's grinning at me. I think I detect BBQ sauce at the creases of his smile, but before I can ask if it's a vinegar or tomato-based sauce, he asks, "So, boy. I've been expecting you. What's it gonna be? What's your soul worth?"

"Well, I've always wanted to bake great breads. You know. Pita, challah, naan, roti, French baguettes, focaccia, ciabatta, whole grain, multigrain, and maybe the occasional croissant. That's all."

Satan takes one last drag from his cigarette, flicks the butt to the ground, and then reaches inside the glovebox of the Trans Am. He emerges with a flask. He takes a swig, and then he grins at me again, "It seems foolish to me. You do know that I'll offer you more for your soul. Wealth, fame, the ability to charm women, eternal life. Hell boy, if you just want to cook, I could make you a culinary superstar. I just don't get this baking bread business. Hell, all you need to bake bread is a little yeast, water, flour, and salt. Are you sure you don't want more?"

It wasn't the first time someone didn't understand my obsession. "No, sir. I just want to bake great bread."

Satan rolled up one sleeve on his flannel shirt and stuck out his hand, "Well, I guess you have yourself a deal."

I stepped toward him. He smelled of gasoline, bbq, and whiskey.

Of course, I never really had this dream. If I did have a dream combining food and religion, this would be a good one.

At one time in my life I taught 7th grade English, and the kids loved to end their stories with: Then I woke up. Kids would pull the old Dallas, Bobby Ewing in the shower, and everything was just a dream ending. I eventually prohibited this type of ending in my class in an effort to encourage something a little more original. If a 7th grader had written this, the story would have ended:

I woke up. My hands were caked with flour, and there was a loaf of perfectly baked bread on the pillow next to me. My bedroom smelled of gasoline, bbq, and whiskey.

Anyway, thanks for being patient and allowing me to entertain myself.

I am still haunted by yesterday's experience making wraps, so today I'm setting out to redeem myself by making Frybread, a recipe often associated with Native Americans. Recently Frybread has been the source of a controversial debate. For an exploration of Frybread significance in Native American culture and background on this debate, checkout the following article at the Smithsonian:

Frybread: This Seemingly Simply Food is a Complicated Symbol in Navajo Culture

The article should convince you that once again food is more than food.

Even though my blog is titled The Greasy Skillet, I don't do a lot of cooking that involves grease. I'd like to still be cooking well into my 90's, so I try to make healthy decisions when it comes to what I eat. Also, I want to instill good eating habits in my daughter. I might deep fry something once a year, so this is a real treat. I did my frying in my dutch oven outside on my camp stove since I hate having the house smell of grease.

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
  • 3 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 to 3 cups vegetable oil or shortening for frying
  1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and dry milk in a large bowl.
  2. Using a fork or pastry blender cut in the shortening until the dough resembles coarse meal.
  3. Pour ice water and stir until dough forms a ball.
  4. Gather dough and knead lightly.
  5. Wrap the dough and let it rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
  6. Roll out dough until it's 3/8 thick and cut it into 5 or 6 inch rounds.
  7. In a large, heavy skillet or dutch oven, heat 1-inch of oil or shortening to 350 degrees.
  8. Cut two 1/2-inch slits in the center of each circle of dough, and then place in the oil to cook.
  9. Turn over frequently to keep the dough puffy, and fry to a deep golden brown, 3 - 5 minutes.
  10. Drain on a paper towel.
We ate bits of this bread dipped in honey for dessert. It's a treat that I don't see myself preparing again. I prefer light, airy sopapillas to sop up my honey. Sorry I didn't include pictures; I didn't feel like taking any this evening.

Keep your skillet good and greasy,

1 comment:

Doug DuCap said...

I definitelt understand your obsession. I hope in my next life I'll get to be a truly great baker (hope hope). Until then...