Tongue, as a Cold Cut

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Let’s face it, they’re not pretty. They look like huge, well, tongues. So just don’t think about it being a tongue. Think of it as a culinary delicacy. Tongue is soft, tender, and lean, with a unique texture.

With very little work, you can turn this piece of cow into a fabulous “cold cut” for hors d’oeuvres. All you need to do is poach the tongue, just like you were poaching a chicken.

Not intended to offend anyone, but this is a tongue!

Beef Tongue

1 beef tongue, about 3 1/2 pounds, at room temperature
1 onion, quartered
3-4 stalks celery, quartered
10 baby carrots
1 leek, cleaned, quartered
1 bunch parsley
5 bay leaves
1 head of cloves, sliced horizontally
Handful of whole black pepper corns
2 teaspoons salt

Place all of the ingredients in a large pot. Add enough water to cover everything. Bring it all to a boil on the stove, then simmer, covered, for about 2 – 2 1/2 hours.

You could heat the broth ingredients first, and then add the tongue, but this way works well, and you do end up with a great meat plus a good broth. After cooking, remove the lid and let the mixture cool a bit, then remove the tongue and set on a plate to cool completely.

Remove the fatty chunk at the base of the tongue, but don’t discard it. Peel the tongue – especially the top part of it where you can see the taste buds. It doesn’t all work with the pinch and pull method; a paring knife comes in handy.

Slice the peeled tongue crosswise into 1/4 to 3/8″ slices. Tongue is good at room temperature, or cold. I love it with Dijon mustard and good bread.

The slices are wonderful as part of an charcuterie platter, along with cheeses, olives, and cornichons.

If you don’t want the tongue as a cold cut, sear the slices instead in hot skillet with a teaspoon of olive oil. Add salt and pepper after turning. I sliced up that piece I cut off the tongue to make these non-uniform strips to sear.

I like to put these in flour tortillas and eat with onions and cilantro, and you can make a more involved filling like Rick Bayless’s creamy zucchini and corn. Or, serve the hot seared tongue with crispy potatoes and a couple over easy eggs.

Tongue is also good with pigs’ feet, but that’s another post!

Make sure to use this wonderful broth in another recipe! I added potatoes and leeks for a quicky soup!

Guiso de Carne

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At our favorite Mexican restaurant in town, I typically order one of two favorite items. One is shrimp Saltado, and the other is guiso de carne This is what is looks like at the restaurant.

It’s tender beef in a rich red sauce – not spicy, but very flavorful, served with rice, beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream.

Recently I decided to make guiso de carne at home, and I immediately had challenges. The first was that this didn’t exist in any of my Mexican cookbooks, and then online, the name guiso de carne was most often changed to carne guisado. I tried to figure out the difference, but hit a dead end.

Carne Guisado is beef braised in a seasoned red sauce, and at this point I’m thinking its a Tex-Mex creation.

So I created my own recipe, and is it exactly like what I love at the restaurant? I’d have to do a side-by-side taste test. But it’s really good.

Guiso de Carne

2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Grapeseed or canola oil, divided
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 guajillo chile peppers, stemmed, seeded
8 ounces hot chicken broth
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper
8 ounces tomato sauce

Place the cut up beef in a large bowl. Add the salt, pepper, cumin and coriander and toss so that all the beef is seasoned.

Starting with 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven, brown the meat in batches over high heat, without crowding, then place in another bowl. Continue with remaining beef.

Reduce the heat and add a little more oil if necessary, and sauté the onion; don’t caramelized much.

Meanwhile, place the hot chicken broth in a small blender jar with the guajillo peppers, broken up slightly, the chipotle peppers, the oregano, and ground ancho chile. Let sit for about 5 minutes before blending until smooth.

Add the tomato sauce and blend again; set aside.

Once the onions are sautéed, stir in the minced garlic for barely a minute, then pour in the tomato sauce mixture.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the beef and its juices to the sauce, give everything a stir, and simmer on low for 1 hour.

Check halfway through cooking – add some more broth if necessary. Make sure to give the meat a stir to make sure there is no sticking.

Serve the guiso de carne on a plate with your desired side dishes and toppings.

Rice and beans are great accompaniments, as are flour tortillas.

If you prefer eating guiso de carne in tortillas, like tacos, it’s best to make sure the pieces of chuck aren’t bigger than 1/2″.

Chile Colorado

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I got this recipe from Wesley Avila’s cookbook called Guerilla Tacos, published in 2017. It’s probably one of the most conservative recipes in the book, but I just had to taste the sauce.

The chef certainly proves that tacos can pretty much be made with anything, highlighting in his recipes some with uni, foie gras, mussels, sun chokes, and more. As Mr. Avila states in the introduction, “A taco is a blank canvas.” Indeed, Chef Avila. But please keep uni out of mine.

Over the years I’ve made lots of Mexican and Southwestern “stews,” but I’ve never made chile Colorado, so it was a perfect recipe, and one that wouldn’t revolt my husband. (I have to admit I didn’t enjoy uni when I first had it.)

The book is fabulous, but to me, it’s mostly because of the story Chef Avila tells, from his childhood with Mexican-born parents, his mother dying, to his time as a teamster, then attending culinary school, working at a fine dining restaurant, then finally with a food truck, called, not surprisingly, Guerilla Tacos.

Although of Mexican heritage, Mr. Avila makes sure the reader understands that the recipes in the cookbooks are “not “authentic” Mexican food. “The truth is there is no such thing as an authentic taco. “Taco makers have always known this.”

Chile Colorado

3 pounds beef, in one piece, like a hanger steak
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
8 Roma tomatoes, chopped, seeded
1 cup husked, rinsed, and halved tomatillos
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 dried pasilla pepper, stemmed and seeded
2 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 dried chile morita, stemmed and seeded
2 bay leaves
1 cup water
16-18 corn tortillas, warmed
2 red onions, very thinly sliced

Trim the meat, and cut into 1/2-by-2-inch pieces, like you’re making fajitas. Season with salt and pepper.

In a 10” cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil. Working in four batches, sear the beef until it is browned, about 2 minutes per batch. You don’t want it cooked too much, just coated with oil and browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to another container.

In the same pan, over medium heat, sauté the yellow onion and cumin seeds until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. (I added another tablespoon of oil first.) Add the tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, all 3 dried chiles, and bay leaves and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatillos are cooked and the chiles are soft.

Turn the heat to a medium-low and add the water to keep it saucy. (My sauce didn’t require any water, perhaps because I used a lid to cook the tomatoes and tomatillo mixture.) Transfer to a blender and process to make the sauce as smooth as possible. I added about 1 tablespoon of concentrated tomato paste because my Roma tomatoes were not super ripe.

Return the meat to the pan and cover with the sauce.

Serve family style, with the tortillas and red onions, and let everybody make their own tacos.

I noticed a couple of mistakes… nothing huge. But for one thing, why worry about it the beef is from an intact piece, rather than, say, 2 flank steaks? Since you’re going to be cutting it up anyway?

And, Mr. Avila writes to add the pasilla, and dried chiles to the pan, when all three chile peppers used in this recipe are dried.

I also would have preferred a weight of tomatillos, but I know the outcome plus or minus an ounce of tomatillo isn’t crucial. Just some editing issues.

This chile Colorado sauce was a hit. Not much heat, which can always be added, but a lot of depth of flavors.

And, a big thank you to Greg, from Sippitysup.com, for telling us all about Guerilla Tacos.

Poblano Roast

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Chile peppers are an integral part of Mexican and Southwestern cuisines, and it’s good to get to know them – especially the ones that are readily available to you.

One of the most well-known and available chiles is jalapeños, which are pretty hot, and tend to scare people. It’s okay if you never want to try them, although that would be a shame.

Poblano peppers, on the other hand, are mild, which makes them much more versatile. This is especially the case for those who don’t like things too spicy-hot, but want to experiment with Mexican and Southwestern cuisines.

The fresh poblano is dark green and long, about 5″ long on average. Dried poblanos are called ancho chiles, which you might have used before to make an ancho chile paste or sauce. Ground ancho chile powder is also available at spice markets.

poblano-chili-pepper

Chile pepper nomenclature is really involved and confusing. That’s why it’s good to become familiar with the fresh, dried, and smoked varieties of chile peppers that you can readily purchase locally. Those are the ones you’ll probably be using the most. This is my favorite chile pepper reference:

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Traditionally, you roast fresh chile peppers, like poblanos, before cooking with them. This process helps remove the thick peel, plus, the roasting adds flavor. After roasting, it’s just a matter of removing the peel, chopping the chiles, and you’re all done. The resulting green chiles are very similar to what you’d find canned, but they are so much better. It’s really worth the time having a poblano roast. And, it makes the house smell good!

First, purchase fresh poblanos that are nice and shiny and firm. Remove any dust or debris on the peppers.

To roast, place 2 or 3 peppers on a gas burner* and turn it on to the highest setting. Don’t overcrowd.

Let them roast; you’ll hear the popping and sizzling. Move them using long tongs. This is hot work.

Let them roast on all sides; they will become black and charred. The charring affects the chile peppers in a good way!

When they are completely roasted, place the peppers in a paper bag. Seal the bag, and set it aside for the peppers to steam-cook. This action loosens the peels. This should take about 20 minutes.

After the chile peppers have cooled, remove the stem end, slice each lengthwise and remove the membrane and seeds. Then gently rub the outside using your hands or paper towels to remove the peels. It’s sort of like peeling a roasted beet, if you’ve done that.

There might be some little bits of char remaining, but that’s ok. That is what adds flavor. Whatever you do, don’t put the peppers under running water to help with peel removal. You will lose the precious, flavorful and pungent chile pepper oil.

And here are your lovely roasted poblano peppers. The can be added whole to puréed soups or sauces, or chop or julienne the chile peppers to use in tacos or stews. Each poblano pepper yields about 1/4 cup of chopped chiles.

I added these chopped poblanos to a vegetable medley with a Southwestern slant. So many options.

If you don’t want to roast poblanos, you can chop them up and sauté them, just like you would green peppers and onions. But roasting results in a far superior product!

* Alternatively, if you don’t have a gas stove, use a high setting on your oven like a 450 degree roast setting, or the broiler.