VER SINCE I tried lengua tacos in the Mojave Desert, I’ve wanted to make some myself. Beef tongue is not, it turns out, very easy to procure. I approached the good folks at Olde Hudson Gourmet about it. They promised to contact their butcher and then never got back to me. I would have blown me off, too. Cooking offal seems to be some kind of hipster fad, like pickling, and who wants to enable a hipster fad? I am no slave to fashion, however: I’ve always had a weakness for stuff that’s gross as hell. That’s why I give you lengua tacos, at long last, as part of a series of food and horror movie pairings. Hallowe’en is well and truly here.
But what about liver, fava beans, and a nice blah blah blah? My goodness, you’d think Hannibal Lecter ate the same thing every day, like a five-year-old who throws a tantrum if he isn’t served X-Treme Dinosaur Shapez!® chicken tenders. Not so! Remember Dr. Frederick Chilton’s chilling tale of Nurse Tartare? “The doctors managed to reset her jaw more or less. Saved one of her eyes. His pulse never got above 85, even when he ate her tongue.” Variety is the spice of life.
I’d noticed that most recipes for slow-cooked lengua call for three pounds of tongue. What I didn’t realize before I tracked this sucker down at a Shop-Rite in Norwalk, Connecticut, is that it’s not three pounds of tongue. It’s a straight-up three-pound tongue. After you cook it, it will look like a size 12 white Buck—with taste buds.
Here’s what you do with it. Cover it with water in a large pot. Bring the water to a rolling boil. With tongs, remove tongue. Place tongue in a slow cooker with two halved onions, three or four halved garlic cloves, three bay leaves, a bunch of salt, and enough water or proprietary water / beer / cider vinegar blend to cover the works. Then cook it forever. The longer, the better. Many recipes advise three or four hours; this is sheer nonsense. With apologies to Withnail & I, this tongue was still a gray-yellow sock after three hours. Give it at least seven, on high.
Good things come to those who wait. When you think your tongue is ready to skin and eat, start browning a corn tortilla in a cast-iron skillet with a little vegetable oil and salt. Dice the inner meat (after removing the white “leather,” which will not, pace some recipes, “peel” or “slip” off) and sprinkle the chunks with salt. Serve with chopped onions, cilantro, and the hot sauce or salsa of your choice. Brave reader, you will tell me if ever the cows stop mooing? Promise?