When it comes to eating meat, Mexico goes from nose to tail. From menudo to pancita, and from tostadas de pata to tacos de cabeza, not only do we know how to cook each part well, we go on to dress and celebrate it on the plate.
As for me, the only part I haven’t warmed up to is sesos. My dad tricked me into eating some, when I was Juju’s age, in a quesadilla from a street stand that he said was filled with potatoes (…caught you on the first bite, papi!).
No doubt, one of the most popular and tastiest parts is the tongue.
Not a fan? Then you just haven’t given it a real try. With abandon and an open mind.
Oh, what’s that? You tried it and haven’t been converted yet? Then I assure you, what you have tried wasn’t cooked right.
If you are not a meat eater…go ahead, skip this post. Or by the time you are done, you will have witnessed an ode to the tongue.
Take one of the simplest ways we prepare it: cooked in a gently simmering broth, seasoned with a subtle combination of herbs and spices, until utterly tender. Then it is peeled, diced, and given a quick sear along with chopped onions and a sprinkle of salt. It ends up a perfectly browned, melt in your mouth, crazy good tasting filling for tacos when generously spooned on warm corn tortillas…
Having a gamey taste and that ridiculously tender texture, the best salsa to pair it with is a tangy and punchy cooked salsa verde…
And a must: garnish with fresh, bright cilantro.
Also a must: top it off with crunchy, sweet white onion.
That is your basic, most exquisite tongue taco.
After tacos de lengua, my favorite way of eating tongue is in a stew, either with salsa verde and potatoes or a la veracruzana. But we have to leave something for a next time…
- 1 whole beef tongue, about 3 to 4 pounds, cut into 2 to 3 pieces(ask the butcher or do it yourself)
- 1 head of garlic outer dry peel removed, split in half horizontally
- 1 white onion outer peel removed, split in half horizontally
- 5 whole dried bay leaves
- 15 black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon kosher or coarse sea salt plus more for seasoning
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped white onion, divided (1/4 for cooking with the meat and 1/4 to reserve for garnish)
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and upper part of stems
- 1 batch of Cooked Salsa Verde
- 1 lime cut in quarters, optional garnish
- 10 to 12 corn tortillas
- Place tongue, garlic, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, marjoram, thyme, oregano and 1 tablespoon salt in a casserole or soup pot. Cover with water up to 2 inches above the tongue.
- Bring to a rolling boil over high heat, then reduce to a gentle medium simmer, cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 3 hours, or until the tongue is completely tender and soft. Check the water halfway through and add more hot water if need be to keep the tongue mostly covered.
- Turn off the heat. Let cool slightly in the liquid until you are ready to eat.
- Remove the tongue from the broth and place on a chopping board. Using a small sharp knife and your hands, remove the outer layer of skin, as well as the bottom part of the tongue, which would attach it to the mouth, as it tends to be harder and greasy. The tongue is easier to peel if it is still warm or hot.
- Slice into 1/4-inch slices and cut into about a 1/4-inch dice.
- Heat oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 cup of the chopped onion and cook for a couple minutes, until softened. Incorporate diced tongue, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and the onion has completely softened. Turn off the heat.
- Heat corn tortillas on an already heated comal over medium heat. Make sure the tortillas are thoroughly heated and lightly browned on both sides. Place in a clean kitchen towel and wrap to keep warm, or keep in a tortilla warmer.
- Place the tongue in a bowl and start assembling the tacos: spoon a generous amount of tongue in the middle of the tortilla, spoon a generous amount of salsa verde on top, and garnish with fresh chopped onion and cilantro. If desired, add a gentle squeeze of fresh lime juice.