Great. I have your attention. Now. Back away from the gutter.

Veggies for Tacos de Lengua
Veggies for Tacos de Lengua

As you may know, I tend to be somewhat of a culinary adventurer (adventuress?) and don’t mind trying something new from time to time.  Well, this story began more or less 22 years ago when I first moved to Las Vegas.  There was a cool little taco shop near Sahara and Eastern (they’re long gone unfortunately, and I can’t recall the name) that sold Tacos de Lengua, and I decided to give them a try.

“What are Tacos de Lengua?” I asked.

“They are made from the tongue of a cow,” was the reply.

Gulp. Um. What? Yes, I was hesitant. After all, I had grown up on normal food like chitlins, tripe, pigs feet, and collards. To be fair, I was much older before I found out what chitlins and tripe really were.

But I digress.

I was hooked! And although they were located on the other side of town from my apartment, I would occasionally make the trip, have a bottle of Dos Equis (dark), and order two tacos. Yes. The Dos Equis made me the most interesting woman in the world. Anyway, the restaurant closed a few years later when the economic tsunami swamped Las Vegas and small businesses and restaurants dropped like flies.

Fast forward to now.

Beef Tongue1I was in the weird area of YouTube when I saw a how-to recipe on cooking cow tongue, and it peaked my interest.  I watched, did several searches that kind of got me out of the weird YouTube weeds, and I decided that my revisiting Tacos de Lengua had taken far too long.

Instead of getting an organic grass-fed cow tongue from either Echo & Rig or Valley Meats, I bought a package of two from the Business Costco on MLK. I separated them and put one in the freezer. The other I stared at before I decided what to do.

I placed it in a light brine to help rid of any funkiness, and while it was marinating, I did a rough-chop mirepoix, half a bulb of garlic, powdered oregano and thyme, and salt and pepper. Simple. I got the veggies started in my old Crock Pot, and after soaking overnight, into the broth went the tongue. After work, I was greeted by a pretty funky-looking spectacle, but a house filled with delicious aromas.

Now a cow’s tongue is a pretty gross thing to handle. First, there’s the dog paw-pad, plasticky textured membrane that has to be removed, as well as the slimy, fatty underside. When it’s cleaned up, it somewhat resembles some sort of alien phallic life form.

Then you slice it and taste it. OMG. Tender and beefy with good “bite” and mouthfeel. Considering that my seasonings were very conservative, the flavor of the tongue was just as I remembered, and I immediately decided that this was a very good idea.

Beef Tongue - Ready for trimming. Meanwhile, ew.
Beef Tongue – Ready for trimming. Meanwhile, ew.

I had lots of fresh veggies on hand to use for tacos, and that’s the direction I took. After removing the membrane and the fatty stuff, I chopped and seared enough to go into the tacos. I added fresh tomatoes, shredded red cabbage, green Mexican onions, some jalapeno (all chopped) lots of squeezes of lime, and a little salt. I warmed the tortillas in a cast iron pan and then assembled the tacos.

Beef tongue taco (Tacos de Lengua) ingredients
Beef tongue taco (Tacos de Lengua) ingredients

Oh Man.  Were they good! I quickly wolfed down two, and then used the remainder of the chopped veggies and meat to have a salad of sorts. Delicious.

What I Did Right:

  • Fresh Beef Tongue
  • Fresh Veggies
  • Brining
  • Simple Seasoning
  • Fine Chop on Veggies

What I’ll Change Next Time

  • Shorter Cook Time
  • Actual Salsa and/or sour cream
  • Do Oven Braise
  • Adventurous seasonings

It was truly the last hurrah of my old Crock Pot.  I’ve had it for over 12 years, and use it regularly. There had been a few issues – the main knob broke and I was using pliers to adjust the temperature and the handle on the lid disintegrated which meant that I had to use a butter knife to lift it from the crock – but the actual cooking part still worked.

Two Tacos de Lengua!
Two Tacos de Lengua!

It’s finally met its maker because the ingredients were just shy of a rolling boil when I got home, and I had set it on low. That concerned me somewhat, but everything was fine. However, I feel that the texture of the lengua was a little too soft and stopped just short of becoming mushy.

My new Staub Cocotte will take over the tongue-braising duties next time!

I will document step by step when I cook the next tongue, and will (hopefully) have more and better pics to share. I was shooting without a tripod in regular kitchen light, so please excuse any blurriness.

Oh! I almost forgot!  I cut a few slices and tried it with a 2011 Vines on the Marycrest Grenache that I found hiding in one of my coolers.  Very, very nice!

And going back to the title of this piece, I’ve discovered a new favorite food. I happy to enjoy the “nasty bits” that many of us have lost sight of. I believe that enjoying as much of the animal as possible respects the (albeit reluctant) sacrifice of the life of the animal. There’s more to eating than just steak – I look at it as being an ethical carnivore.  Some of us will never be vegans, and that’s okay. It is the history of mankind.

 

 

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