I wish I could tell you these tacos are delicious and leave it at that, but I should probably address the issue of lengua — tongue.
Watching hours of Anthony Bourdain and reading more about food convinced Michael and I that we ought to be less discriminating in our meat choices. We like to be informed carnivores, people who eat meat, well aware that it came from a live animal, instead of ignoring what a steak once was.
We realized, if we’re going to eat the spinal muscles (T-bone) and diaphragm (skirt steak) of cattle, we shouldn’t squirm over tongue just because someone couldn’t come up with a more marketable name for it.
So at a Mexican restaurant in LA, Michael ordered a huaruche de lengua. It was awesome. A month or so later we made tongue and oxtail stew. Friday it was tongue tacos after Michael got a tongue from Missouri Legacy Beef. (See Michael’s portrait of Mark and Susie here.)
For the tacos, the meat was cut so small and mixed with other ingredients, even Kat was OK with it (It was her first time trying beef tongue). Cooking tongue might be difficult for some because there’s no hiding the fact you’re cooking a giant tongue. But it didn’t really bother me, especially the second time around.
If you can get over the idea of eating tongue, it’s to your benefit. The meat is really tender and tasty. Plus it’s so cheap. Remember, it’s just another muscle of the animal. Nothing to be afraid of.
Tacos de Lengua
- Beef tongue (1 pound = about 6 servings)
- 1 small yellow onion (or half a large white)
- 2 cups tomatoes, chopped (5 romas)
- 1 jalapeno pepper
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon cumin (I put whole seeds in, but ground is good too)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- Salt and pepper
Fill a large pot with water. I added some ingredients to flavor the water (an onion peeled and cut in quarters, garlic, fresh cilantro stems, whole cumin, coriander seed and peppercorns, dried oregano and chipotle peppers), but they aren’t necessary. Bring water to a boil and then down to a simmer.
Allow tongue to cook at least 1 hour per pound, but the more the better. Ours was 0.82 pounds, but it simmered for about 3 hours.
When it’s done, take it out of the hot water and allow to cool for a few minutes. (You might want to save some of the water for the next step of cooking, but otherwise you don’t get a very flavorful stock. There aren’t bones or enough fat in tongue to make a good stock on its own.)
In the meantime, dice tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers.
When the meat is cool enough to handle, slice into the tough outer skin and peel it off. Discard. Then chop the meat into small pieces.
Heat a little oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers with a little salt. When they start to soften, add meat and a half to a full cup of the broth that the tongue cooked in. Add cumin, chili powder, and black pepper. Allow to simmer. (No set amount of time. The whole thing is cooked already.)
Serve in tortillas or taco shells with your favorite toppings. We had corn salsa, queso fresco, lettuce and a squeeze of fresh lime.
Also, I found a good step-by-step with photos and another tasty sounding recipe at the LA Taco blog.
*Tacos served with Jicama, Broccoli and Orange Slaw.