When it comes to Navajo tacos, the options in the hands of a creative chef are endless.
Kachina Southwestern Grill in Westminster, Colorado, offers traditional favorites like stacked Christmas-style enchiladas and pork posole, as well as urban twists on regional cuisine, such as Colorado striped bass encrusted with red chile popcorn. But it’s the restaurant’s signature Navajo tacos that exemplify Kachina’s modern Southwestern spirit. Here are two versions, compliments of chef Jeff Bolton.
½ package active yeast
1½ cups warm water
½ tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil,
plus additional oil for frying
5 cups flour
In the bowl of a mixer, combine the water and yeast and allow to “bloom” for about 5 minutes. Next, add the flour, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and salt; starting slowly, turn the mixer to medium-high. Knead the dough well for about 4 minutes. Let the dough rest for 1 hour on the countertop or a few hours in the refrigerator.
Once ready, roll the dough out into a thin, ¼-inch sheet. With a circle cutter or a large-mouth drinking glass about 4 inches in diameter, cut circles out of the rolled-out dough. Set them aside and get the oil hot to fry (350 degrees). These fry breads can be done in as little as a ½ inch of oil in a pan — the trick is to cook them hot and fast. Fry dough in the hot oil until golden on both sides, turning only once. Drain on paper towels.
Top the fry bread with Kachina’s Achiote Grilled Chicken or seasoned taco meat and lettuce, cheese, or any desired garnish.
Achiote Grilled Chicken
1 pound boneless, skinless
chicken breasts, trimmed
2 tablespoons achiote paste
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon cumin
Combine all ingredients and marinate for 1 hour. Grill or pan-sear chicken until it is cooked thoroughly. Adjust seasoning as needed and plate atop the fry bread.
Seasoned Taco Meat
1 pound ground beef
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
(add more to increase heat)
Salt and black pepper to taste
3 ounces yellow onion, finely diced
1½ ounces jalapeños, finely diced
1 tablespoon garlic, finely diced
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
Season the ground beef with salt, pepper, and cayenne; sear it in a hot sauté pan until it is browned. Add all of the remaining ingredients; continue to cook until the meat is cooked through. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and plate atop the fry bread.
For more on the history behind the dish, read More Than an Indian Taco from the October 2013 issue.