Like making out with a cow.
If my Cowboys had played at home in this Super Bowl, I would have made chili.
Tix-ass chili; made with cubed chuck, onions, chili powder, tomato and nothing else. Kick-your-ass chili befitting of a Dallas Super Bowl; no doubt culminating in Tony Romo hoisting the Lombardi trophy in front of a cheering crowd.
Obviously that never materialized. The Cowboys sucked more than usual this year, so chili just seemed too festive for a Super Bowl where the Stealers might win another trophy (spoiler alert: So awesome that they didn’t!). I ended up making tacos de lengua (beef tongue tacos) because they still fit the Texas theme along with being relatively cheap, easy to make and incredibly tasty with a cold beer (or six).
People who didn’t grow up eating tongue might be grossed out by the idea of eating part of the cows digestive tract. I can only tell you squeamish folk that you’re missing out on one of the tastiest parts of the cow.
I personally think eating tongue is way less gross than eating a hotdog, but whatever.
You’re going to need the following:
- 3 1/2 lb beef tongue (Any reputable Mexican or Jewish butcher will have this)
- 1 large yellow onion, quartered
- 1 whole head of garlic, peeled. Half of cloves left whole, half chopped roughly.
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon each: Mexican oregano, smoked paprika, chili powder
- 1 tablespoon raw sugar
- 1 tablespoon shoyu or tamari
- 1 tablespoon whole pequin chilis
- 2 teaspoons fennel seed
- Kosher salt to taste
- Soft corn tortillas
Put the whole tongue, onion, peppercorns, bay leaves and whole cloves of garlic in a large pot and fill it with cold water. Add a tablespoon of kosher salt and bring to a boil.
Cover the pot and simmer on medium low for 2 hours. While that simmers; heat up a pan (steel or cast iron) on medium-high without any oil in it.
Toss in the fennel and pequin chilies; stirring them quickly with a wooden spoon until they begin to get toasted (about 2 minutes)
Transfer the toasted spices to a mortar and pestle, molcajete or food processor. Add a pinch of kosher salt and grind the spices into a reasonably uniform powder.
After two hours of simmering; the tongue should look like a 97 Jordan
After two hours; pull tongue from pot set out to cool for a few minutes. Take the pot of liquid the tongue boiled in off the heat, but keep it handy.
Peel outer layer of tongue away with a sharp knife. It should come right off.
Heat a dutch oven or pan with a lid to medium high with a tablespoon of oil in it. Slice the tongue crosswise into 1 inch slices. Fry the slices a couple at a time until browned on each side. Keep them set aside on a plate until all the tongue pieces are browned.
When finished frying slices; turn heat off but keep the remaining fat in the pan.
Chop the slices into even sized one-inch cubes and set aside.
Heat reserved beef fat in pan back up to medium high and add chopped garlic. Stir with wooden spoon for a minute and a half; making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.
Add oregano, paprika, chili powder and pequin/fennel powder. Stir for another minute.
Add the chopped tongue and stir around in the chili mixture.
Add the sugar and shoyu. Stir around quickly for 30 seconds. Add three cups of the reserved cooking liquid you made the tongue in; turn heat up to high and bring to a boil.
Once it begins to boil; give it a stir; cover it and bring the heat down to medium-low.
Here’s where you can get a little creative.
You’ll want to simmer the tongue for at least another hour; stirring occasionally to keep it from scorching; but for the most part it should be okay on its own.
I say an hour at a minimum. That should be all it takes to get a nice flavor and texture; but you should still have a pretty good amount of the cooking liquid left over. You could potentially nurse the braise for several hours; letting it reduce to a thicker sauce before adding a ladle or two of liquid to thin it out a bit; then reducing it again.
Repeating this process would develop and concentrate the flavors really nicely, and because the tongue is such a sturdy piece of meat, the number of times you do it are limited only by your patience.
However long you decide to cook your tongue, your end product should look something like the above photo. Heat up some corn tortillas (or better yet, make them yourself), tear up some cilantro and pick out a hot sauce.
Then make these pickled onions this or any other time you make Mexican food.
Slice two onions (one red, one white) and throw them in a pan. Cover them with cold water and bring them to a boil.
Once boiled drain them immediately and put them in a glass bowl with:
- two cups white vinegar
- one teaspoon salt
- two bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Mix it, cover it and put it in the fridge. Best after a day but ready to serve after three hours.
Do yourself a favor and don’t put any cheese on it; you’d just be gilding the lily.
Crack open a cold beer and enjoy your tacos with some pickled carrots that you made the same way as the onions; you suave and sophisticated so and so.