Contains: Nightshades, dairy.
NOTE: I’m posting this recipe in two parts today: one, the salsa verde, the second the tacos de lengua. Some may want just the salsa and may want to steer well clear of any meat such as the tongue. (Or, may not be able to find some.) Although, do note that you can substitute in shredded pork shoulder (carnitas).
A decade or so ago, I was on jury duty in Danbury, CT, and across the street is a largely-authentic Mexican eatery, adjoining a Mexican grocery. Promptly at noon, we’d be let out to fend for ourselves for lunch for exactly one hour – it was rather strange to me for a task to stop precisely at noon, practically mid phrase of a spoken deposition – my own job didn’t work like that! We worked until we had a sensible stopping point, and on a few days you just grabbed a bite at your desk, or took it to a meeting.
Anyhow, there were only two or three places to eat near enough to walk to (if you left by car, you’d never find a parking spot upon return) to be back precisely by one (some people did bring their own lunches), but this Mexican eatery, while it didn’t look like much and the juke box was way too loud for the middle of the day, was the real thing.
I ordered the tongue tacos one of those days fulfilling my civic duty. They were quite good, as I’d expected (being as I like beef tongue). So, I figured, with my new beef tongue, I’d attempt this Mexican dish, with an eye to some level of authenticity.
For tacos, I needed to cook the tongue a shreddable level of time. I had no intention of turning all the meat into tacos, and overall only certain recipes work best shredded: taco meats, carnitas, that sort of thing. I wanted slices out of the rest.
So, I cooked the whole tongue 4 hours on high in my crock pot, cut off the parts I wanted to cook longer, and cooked those (after de-skinning) another two hours. This also allowed the Mexican seasonings to permeate the meat.
It felt weird not adding something acidic like vinegar or dill pickle juice to the tongue during its slow-cookery, but, well, something different, as they say. (The family had been eating Mom’s tongue – don’t take that literally – since our early childhood, and for home cooking, it’s been the only way I’ve known.)
I did take some liberties in lengua/tongue seasonings. Recipes I checked online seemed to state adding nothing more than onion/salt during the slow cooking stage. I couldn’t keep my hands that idle!
Anyhow, here’s what I’ve come up with. BTW, we found the guy guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two of the four charges. You may not ever want to do it, but I found being a juror to be a valid learning experience on many levels, some possibly unintentional (I was only away from my own career for about four days, and to be honest, three of those days I went to work before and/or after the proceedings.)
Cook Time: 6 hours for the slow cooker, maybe another ten minutes if you don’t eat this right away and need to re-heat the tongue.
Prep Time: 5 minutes prior to slow cooking + 15 minutes just before the end of slow cooking. 10 minutes after. (Salsa recipe will be separate.)
Rest Time: Not necessary.
Serves: For the amount of tongue I used in this recipe: about ten tacos.
Leftovers: Yes, just don’t assemble the next tacos until you are ready to eat them.
Taco de Lengua
Cooking the tongue:
- 1 beef tongue, of which I used half, once slow-cooked. Reserve the rest for other ideas.
- 1 small onion, peeled and quartered.
- 1/4 teaspoon salt.
- 1 teaspoon Annato,
- 1 teaspoon ground ancho chili pepper
Prepping the tacos:
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chili pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 colorful bell pepper, cut into slivers and de-seeded
- Lettuce, hand-shredded
- Salsa (see my Salsa Verde with Tomatillo, Avocado, Sour Cream recipe for an idea)
- Other items at whim: Cilantro, chopped tomato, hot sauce(s), heated re-fried beans and so forth.
- Soft (or hard) corn tortillas
For the tacos, to shred this meat, simmer it for around 6 hours. In this case, I used high, so that the tongue would shred more effectively for the purpose of tacos. At any rate, add the ingredients under “Cooking the Tongue” into the slow cooker when you start it up.
When you pull it out, let it cool just enough that you can remove the skin. It is really difficult to remove skin from cold tongue.
Take the warm shredded tongue, and mix in the chili powder, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper, from the Prepping the Tacos ingredient list. (Re-heat the tongue if necessary; use either the microwave for a minute and a half, or put the tongue in a small oven safe bowl that you cover tightly, and into a pre-heated (350 F / 175 C) oven for about ten minutes. THEN mix in the spices.)
I heat up the soft taco shells (microwave or in the oven on a low setting, such as 225 F / 105 C) until just warmed.
Layer down the meat, then the pepper slivers, then the lettuce. Top with a spread of salsa, then any other item that you would love to finish with (suggested in the optional ingredients list).
Fold up, serve and eat!
Yes, it’s Fiesta Friday once again! I’m happy to be re-joining as a co-host this week, along with the marvelous Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau.
And we are also off to share with What’s For Dinner, Sunday Link Up!
Yay, Mexican food! I must confess I have never tried tongue, but your recipe made me want to give it a try!
Tongue is definitely worth the try. It’s nothing like liver or sweetbreads, if that’s your concern. Oh, and yes, I need to do more Mexican recipes. There’s a great Mexican/South American grocery about 50 minutes from here.
I should try cooking tongue for sure, then. Wow, you are so lucky! I can find corn tortillas and a few basic products in my area, but for the most part, I have to rely on going to the US or Toronto and stock up.
I only seem to find tongue at farmers’ markets or meat shares, if that helps. Hope you can stock up on things soon.
Tacos de lengua are my favorite! I learned how to cook it from a friend from Mexico a long time ago. I use onion, garlic, salt, bay leaf and cumin (as I am nightshade free). Like the most tender pot roast you ever had. My only mistake was letting my son see the tongue before I cooked it, otherwise I’m sure he would have loved it, too!
Wait a few months, cook it again, and don’t let him see? I do like your spice combo for this.
Great idea…it’s been a few years now, he’ll never remember!
Okay, perfect opportunity!!!
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Great job! Lengua rocks! I might make these next week. Thanks for sharing.
You might like some of my recipes.
Thanks, and I’ll be over to check yours later today!
Do not cook it but good to know. Friday Fiesta Rocks!
I am so happy you are posting recipes for meats like tongue. My French educated mother used to make it all the time, and we loved it. But I haven’t seen it in the stores here, I will have to check the Mexican grocery. It’s a shame that meats like this, and sweetbreads, aren’t as common in the U.S.
If you have a large enough Mexican grocery, you may find it. I’ve very rarely seen it in supermarkets, but it used to be very common when I was growing up. I get mine at farmers’ markets.
This is such an amazing recipe. I remember my parents would make tongue and sweetbreads curry in India and we would not touch it as kids. Now I crave that moment. Thanks for bringing it to the forefront ❤
Tongue and sweetbread curry is a recipe I’d love to try!
My husband loves lengua – I’ve never tried to prepare it. These look good – Thanks for sharing at the What’s for Dinner party. Have a great week.
Thanks, and I hope your week is treating you well.
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