Friday, May 22, 2009

Lengua en Mejilla

It is no secret that I enjoy offal. I love it so much, I have even made the Hajj to the Mecca of all things offal, St. John. I. Love. Guts. They are good, and good for you. In our new hard times it makes sense to return to eating them. Frankly, if you are looking for flavor, heart and tongue and sweetbreads beat the hell out of a fillet, and they are far cheaper. Waste not, want not. 

Of course, the reality is that people are very turned off to the idea of eating what is politely seen as "left-overs". However, I've seen the same people have no problem eating a hot dog, which is really the "left-overs". There are two exceptions in the world of offal that are worth noting: the heart and the tongue. These are muscles. Most offal consumed, such as liver, sweetbreads, tripe, and kidneys are organs. They have that organ-y taste and texture that made you hate your Grandma for serving you liver and onions. That chalky taste. That bit of giblet that you missed picking out of your stuffing. Chances are you've never had well prepared liver or kidneys or giblets. They are delicate and should be cooked very little. Grandma probably cooked the shit out of that liver, which not only destroys the nutrient content, but also affects the flavor and texture. 

When Amenity invited me over to eat some tongue, I was stoked. I love tongue. And we're not talking some bullshit either. I mean, this was local grass-fed calves tongue. This is a delicacy. And again, this is a muscle, not an organ. The Butcher and I ventured over to Amenity and Adam's house over on the Eastside for what turned out to be quite the spread. A treat really. Homemade tortillas, awesome beans, tostones and sweet plantain, two salsas, and a whole slew of sides and accoutrements for our little lengua tacos. Cooking tongue is an undertaking, so I really appreciated that she wanted to try this for guests. 

Tongue has to be boiled for several hours, cooled, then all of the furry taste-buds must be peeled off before you can do much with it. Or you can simply allow it to cool and slice it and eat it fur and all. That's a pretty standard way to do it for the Brits — cold slices of tongue with mustard or piccalilly. We live close to the Mexican border so it is fitting to want to seek inspiration there in the form of tacos. When peeled, the tongue falls apart, resembling brisket. Amenity  then slow cooked this meaty goodness in a mix of spices and adobo. The flavor was delectable with notes of clove and cinnamon accentuating the delicate flavors of the beefy calves tongue. If I was James Brown, I'd say "Good Gawduh." 

Tortillas frescas.

Spread.

Those fuckers had some heat!

Big ol' bowl o'tongue!

This was one of my favorite recent meals. For one, I was a guest. I like this. The food was excellent and prepared with care. Adam made the tortillas with locally produced El Milagro masa as we arrived. That's freshness you just can't beat unless you've got toothless old Mexican women stashed around your house grinding corn and mixing it with manteca. Seriously, what a treat! Such a treat that I had to bring a New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red to commemorate the event. 

You've got the power and the glory!

These are hard times for some. I am a firm believer in using all parts of an animal. Indigenous cultures worldwide rely on this practice for survival. Why let it go to waste? You can't eat steak every night! Well, you can. I have done it. But it is at a premium. I digress. My point here is that these commonly discarded parts have utility and there is little reason to avoid consuming them. I don't want to seem pushy, and would never force someone to eat something they wouldn't enjoy, yet I would urge them to try new things and let old social stigmas fall by the wayside. After all, we are in a recession. . . 

9 comments:

Siobhan Neile said...

"furry taste buds?!" ... I think I'll stick to fillets. =/

juancho said...

One of the resturants visited on your newest favorite show "Diners,drive-ins and dives" after boiling the tongue for 4 hours, they peeled the skin off and sliced it like meatloaf. Then they covered it in a fancy tomato sauce. There is a long list of enjoyable things that can be done with tongues.

amenity said...

Good food, good guests - thanks for the write-up! If I can approach the finesse of an old toothless woman, I'm on the right track...

Flapjacks said...

neither of my grandmothers ever made liver. marie did make tongue once in houston. i remember. it was harrowing.

TexasDeb said...

One side note to eating offal. You need to know about your source. The last thing you want to eat is organs from CAFO type animals.

I had tongue once at Trader Vic's in Houston long long ago. It was awesome. Everybody around me was grossed out but it was Delicious. I'm a fan but intimidated to prep, honestly. Cool to know Amenity was brave AND generous.

PassivePastry said...

oh man oh man i've always wanted to try a big ole tongue sammy..... jealous.

The Social Utilitarian said...

Convincing and thoughtful. I'm sure you can guess my favorite part of this post.

Flapjacks said...

the part about your jiggly bits?

Michael said...

Peel the "furry" skin off the tongue while it's still hot or at least very warm. It will be much easier.
Also, soak your livers, kidneys, sweetbreads, etc in milk for several hours or overnight to tone down the less appetizing aspects of that "minerally" flavor.

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