November 15, 2009

Kyle's D.I.M. Lengua - A Bright Idea.

Kirsten graciously gave me the opportunity to guest host her blog for the day. I hope I live up to the expectations of her many fans.

About a month ago, my lovely wife and I moved to Evanston Illinois, where I'm now employed as a post-doctoral fellow at Northwestern. We're both crazy about the area. Chicago obviously rules. The town of Evanston is nice, if sleepy compared to my traditional view of college towns. It is also relatively "upscale." As a result, I have zero access to the vast array of tacos that I had become accustomed to in Carrboro, NC at any of the 5 or 6 taco trucks that set up shop in random parking lots around town each afternoon. That wouldn't fly here.

Now let me tell you - I'm crazy about "organ meats," i.e. those edible organs other than traditionally-consumed muscles (liver, kidney, etc.). Mexican taquerias are an easy way to fulfill my organic needs, another is a Chinese restaurant that caters to real Chinese people, who love eating weird shit even more than I do. While not an organ as I defined above (it's a muscle), beef tongue is one thing I always get if a mexican restaurant cooks it.

To finally get to the point of this post, I decided that since I can't buy lengua tacos without driving deep into Chicago, I will have to Do It Myself (D.I.M.). To document this journey, I have co-opted the methods of my sister, who traditionally begins with a personal anecdote (check) leading up to a certain food being mentioned (check), cooked, and consumed with pictures taken throughout (see below).

On to the cooking. I had already decided that I would use my trusted slow-cooker in this endeavor. I typically eschew recipes in favor of intuition but, nevertheless, here is a rough ingredients list.

For the meat:
  • 1 beef tongue - mine was a shade shy of 3 lbs and purchased at an eastern European specialty store/deli. It ran about $8.50.
  • 1 onion - I had an additional half onion in my fridge so I threw that in also
  • 2 bottles of Guinnes Extra Stout
  • 1 cup of coffee
  • a few nuggets of garlic
  • a few guajillo chiles that were lying around
  • almost a tablespoon of sea salt - I remember seeing people online cooking their tongues with a lot of salt so I followed suit
  • a few teaspoons of Ground cayenne pepper
  • a light sprinkling of ground cloves (seriously, easy easy those cloves!)
I think that the tongue should be an ideal meat for standing up to these powerful flavors. We'll see...

Other stuff
  • small corn tortillas
  • cilantro, a bit more onion, and a lime to make the garnish to put on the tacos
Here are the assembled components:

I had to cut the tongue in half to fit it into my slow cooker - That baby is as big as my arm from the elbow down:

I threw that in the pot...

...and added the contents of one of the bottles of beer and a cup of coffee.

As for preparation of the rest of the stuff, let's face it, using a slow cooker is not rocket science. Chop it up and throw it in. Having said that, I tend to very coarsely chop onions when using my slow cooker because it makes it easier to remove them after everything is cooked and I don't like mushy onions. Because I'm proud of my big blue chopping block, here's some crushed/chopped garlic!:

Once all the chopped stuff, salt and spices were added, I bathed the beast in the second beer and set it on low.

For the record, cooking began at 11:30 A.M.

Whenever I cook with my slow cooker, even on a lazy Sunday like today when I might be tempted to sit around playing Xbox for 12 hours, I make a point of leaving the house for a while so that I can come back, walk in the door, and smell the goodness. I also think it's good luck, like not changing your underwear during the NHL playoffs.

At 6:30, I removed the meat from the pot and sliced it cross-wise into half-inch "steaks."

Then I trimmed the skin off, as one would do with a section of a pineapple. I sliced the tongue into half-inch strips, then half-inch cubes and, to finish it off, I browned it in a frying pan.

While frying the cubes, I heated the oven to 200 and put some corn tortillas in there to warm up. I also chopped some cilantro and onions and mixed it together with some lime juice to put on the tacos.

Final step - make tacos.

They came out very good. Excellent. I won't try to speak too eloquently about the flavors and texture and all that, but I'll say that they're as good or better than the ones I was eating at the Mexican taco stands. I recommend them without reservation.

If I did the whole batch as tacos today, I think it would serve 4-5 people, but I only ended up slicing half of the tongue. I'll cut the rest and then I can fry some up whenever I want. Maybe with eggs in the morning?

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Blogger Chris said...

Nothing like the meal that tastes you back... hahaha.

November 16, 2009  
Blogger James said...

why am i not hungry?

November 16, 2009  
Blogger The Count Del Monte said...

Actually looks pretty good. Well, once cooked and prepared, it looks like tacos. And tacos are generally pretty good. So I'd probably eat the tacos. But they better be good!

November 16, 2009  

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