Monday, February 27, 2012

Tacos de LENGUA. YES..."Tongue" Tacos


why, is a cow's tongue.

this, by far, is the most challenging item i have cooked so far.
i've cooked Pig's Tails, Chicken Feet, Turkey Tails, Pig Ears, Snouts and Trotters, just to name a few...
but the tongue has escaped me...until NOW.
i've been wrestling with the idea for quite some time and i finally took the challenge head to speak.
of course, in Southern California we have some fabulous Mexican food.  lucky for us we also have quite a few fabulous Mexican/Latino markets.  but...if you're in the neighborhood of Newport Beach/Costa Mesa i highly suggest you try a tiny little place called El Toro Bravo Tortillaria for one of THE BEST AUTHENTIC MEXICAN STREET TACOS.  it's at the end of a tiny little strip mall on 19th street in Costa Mesa.  AND as the name implies, it is also a Tortillaria factory so you are guaranteed the freshest tortillas.
portions are HUGE and prices are low...well worth the road trip, but be prepared for a hole in the wall looking place and a long line at lunch time.

back to MY tongue.  after trying the Lengua at El Toro Bravo, and loving it, i decided it was time to try my hand at it.
WHOA !!! what a monstrous chunk of ugly meat.  the texture alone is enough to scare one running for the hills.  after it's cooked it gets even worse...not until you have conquered the actual peeling of the outer layer and cutting the thing up does it get any better.  when i say put your game face on I'M NOT KIDDING.

the good news is...IT'S DEEE-LICIOUS !!!


1 beef tongue (3 - 4 lbs)
2 large onions
8 - 10 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
5 - 6 bay leaves
1 Tbsp peppercorns
2 Tbsp salt
2 tsp cumin
1 heaping Tbsp Mexican oregano


fresh corn tortillas
pico de gallo...or fresh salsa of choice
chopped white onion
lime wedges


#1...put your game face on.

fill a large stock pot with water.  bring to a boil and put the tongue in for about 5 minutes.  remove tongue, discard the water and clean the pot...this is to remove any impurities.
fill the stock pot with water about 2/3 full.  add the tongue, onions, crushed garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, oregano, cumin and salt.  bring to a boil.  reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 3 hours, until tongue is soft to the touch and fork tender.

remove the tongue from the water and cool for a couple of minutes...until is is cool enough to handle.
DO NOT WAIT TOO LONG...i was busy taking the photo and not thinking it would matter, i took my time.  it is harder to peel if the tongue has sat too long.  trust do not want to spend a lot of time with the tongue in it's whole form trying to peel all the outer layer off.
i found it most unpleasant to peel skin off of a tongue...,BUT i'll admit it was kinda cool.
TO PEEL...notice the light colored skin covering most of the tongue.  using your fingers and a sharp small knife, remove the covering and discard.  there is no other way to describe this step.  you just have to experience it for yourself.
NOTE...notice the rough patch of meat where the tongue would attach to the bottom of the may remove this if you don't like the looks of it.  i kept most of it.   mine wasn't to rough and ugly looking.  i did not want to waste any of the good edible meat.

after spending all morning and most of the afternoon with my tongue, i was over it for that day.  i took a small amount out and packed the rest away.
if not using right away....slice it in 1/2 inch, or so, thick slices, cover with strained cooking liquid and store in an airtight container.  i like to strain the broth before adding it back to the product that has cooked.

TO PREPARE FOR TACOS...reheat your slices either in a saute pan with a little oil until lightly browned or you can simply reheat in it's own juices in the microwave.
dice into small cubes, mince or you can shred...check your seasoning for salt and pepper and you're ready to build your tacos.

Mexican street tacos are pretty straight forward...FRESH TORTILLAS ARE KEY...then it's just meat, onions, cilantro and fresh salsa.  in America we tend to load them up with all kinds of other unnecessary items, but go ahead and help yourself with a little extra trimmings if you need to disguise the tongue on your first try.  work your way into it.
 i'll bet if you'll be amazed at how good a tongue could taste...
some how that doesn't sound right...

so...what do you say...


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Apricot Cardamom Thumbprints with Pistachio and crushed Rose Petals

how thoughtful...some flowers...
always a welcome gift...

BUT, why not get a little creative and make your gift of flowers edible and cute...?

thumbprints are old school.  they look like little flowers, they are so versatile and you can make them fit anyone's flavor favorites.  i chose to go the Middle Eastern route with cardamom, pistachios, apricot and rose petals.  while you can't necessarily taste the rose, it sounds fancy and you know it's there.

there are a ton of thumbprint recipes out there and they are all pretty similar.  this happens to be Martha Stewart's recipe.   it's simple, it works...although a little tedious, it's well worth the effort when you see the smiles.
i say tedious because i think most cookies are time many batches in and out of the oven and having a watchful eye to get them just right.
i wish it weren't so, but i definitely fall (fail?) in the ranks of perfectionism so my cookies take longer than the average.
mind cookies don't all come out perfect no matter how hard i try...and try.


slightly adapted from Martha Stewart...original found HERE

1 /2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
1 large egg...separated.
1 tsp pure vanilla
1 1/4 cups AP flour
1/4 (a little more) ground cardamom
dash of cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped fine
2Tbsp edible rose petals chopped or crushed into tiny pieces
5 - 6 dried apricots, chopped into small cubes or pieces for thumbprint
apricot preserves or jam...i like Bon Maman

put butter and 1/2 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment.  mix for 3 - 4 minutes until pale and fluffy.  add egg yolk and vanilla, mix well.  mix the flour, cardamom and salt in a small bowl...lower speed and add flour mixture.  mix until just combined.  refrigerate dough for 2 hours.

preheat the oven to 325 F
stir together pistachios, petals and 2 Tbsp sugar in a small bowl...NOTE...not sure that the sugar is necessary...i think i would have left it out because i like more nuts and petal pieces stuck on the outside.
beat the egg white in a small bowl (slightly beat, but not to a meringue).
roll the dough into 1 inch balls. NOTE...1 inch seems really small, but don't make them bigger.
dip the balls into the egg white then roll in the nut/petal mixture.
press down the center of each ball with your thumb...i tried to use my large thumb, then changed to the end of a wooded spoon for a more uniform hole. will see cracking around the edges.  some look cute that way and some i pressed back together, closing the cracks.  depending on how thick your jam is you might have seepage.
bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven.  lightly re-press the hole with the end of a wooden spoon.
at this time i put in a piece or a few pieces of dried apricot and a small dollop of apricot jam over the piece...then back into the oven until golden brown...about 8 - 10 minutes.
let cool on wire racks.

NOTE...if you put the jam in before the second baking they seem to hold up and travel better...easier to give away.  you may chose to put the jam in after all baking is done.

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