from The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, pp. 293-94.

For reasons I only slightly relate to, the tongue recipes I’ve posted are some of the least popular on my blog. Despite the fact that tongue is one of the most tender parts of any animal, most people I know recoil from the opportunity to cook one. Just goes to show how ethnically limited my social circles are, I suppose. I have to admit it takes getting used to handling a fresh beef or lamb tongue. The shape and texture of the skin is very evocative of its source. There’s no chance of detachment when preparing to cook a tongue.

I got over it. And now here is another selection from Diane Kennedy’s classic cookbooks, re-edited into one volume. I suspect her recipes and notes have not been updated, because I found a food processor dealt with the grinding better than my blender, although the cost of switching from  one to the other emerged in the grainy sauce that resulted. This recipe also made me better aware of the merits of lard.

But the recipe is pretty straightforward:

Serves 6 to 8

A 5-pound (2.25-kg) fresh beef tongue

1 small white onion, roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

8 peppercorns

salt to taste

The sauce:

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

6 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil

2 ancho chiles, wiped clean, seeds and veins removed

2 oz (60 g) unskinned almonds — a good 1/3 cup (85 ml)

1 small dry tortilla, broken into pieces

Shadowcook: Perhaps it doesn’t matter, but I wish Kennedy had specified whether she meant a flour or corn tortilla. I used what I had: corn tortillas.

1/2 cup (125 ml) tongue broth or water

1/8 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, preferably Oaxacan

6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried

6 sprigs fresh majoram or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1/2-inch (1.5 cm) piece of cinnamon stick, crushed

2 pounds (900 g) tomatoes, finely chopped (about 5 1/3 cups/1.3 L)

salt to taste

1/2 cup (125 ml) pitted green olives

Put the tongue into a saucepan with the onion, garlic, peppercorns, and salt. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the tongue is tender — about 3 hours. Let the tongue cool in the broth, and as soon as it it cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin. Strain the broth and return the tongue to the broth. Keep warm.

Shadowcook: The tongue I prepared weighed about 3 1/2 lbs, smaller than what she calls for. Even still, the only pot big enough to accommodate the tongue and enough water to cover it was my stock pot.

Toast the sesame seeds in a skillet over low heat, stirring them and shaking the pan from time to time until they are a deep golden color — take care not to let them burn — about 5 minutes.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the lard in a small skillet and fry the chiles over medium heat for about 1/2 minute on each side — the inside flesh should turn the color of tobacco. Drain and set aside.

Shadowcook: Actually, I think 2 tablespoons would have been enough. I used my 10-inch cast iron skillet and found 3 tablespoons an abundant amount for the chiles, almonds and tortilla shreds.

In the same lard, fry the almonds over medium heat, turning them and skaing the pan until they turn a darker color. Drain and crush them well (so as not to strain the blender).

In the same lard, fry the tortilla pieces for a few minutes until crisp. Drain and set aside.

Shadowcook: My blender and then my food processor had no problems handling the almonds. The tortilla shreds, however, made the machine jump!

Put the 1/2 cup (125 ml) tongue broth or water into the blender jar, add the dried herbs and spices, and blend as smooth as possible. Gradually add the chiles, tomatoes, sesame seeds, almonds, and tortillas, blending thoroughly after each addition.

Shadowcook: The amount of broth didn’t seem enough to make the pureeing easy, which is partly why I transferred it all from the blender to the food processor. True, the sauce did not come out smooth. But I would not have gotten much further if I had increased the amount of liquid in the blender. And I didn’t mind the grittiness. I used roma tomatoes, which may also explain why I needed more liquid.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons lard in a heavy pan, add the sauce, and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan from time to time to avoid sticking. Stir in salt to taste. The sauce should be of medium consistency and lightly cover the back of a wooden spoon. Add broth to dilute if necessary.

Shadowcook: Again, 3 tablespoons seemed like a lot. I tried to figure out the point of this cooking process. To cook the tomatoes? Maybe. 10 minutes isn’t very long. The flavor of the raw tomatoes brightened the sauce. To reduce the amount of liquid? Well, there wasn’t much to start with? To intensify the flavors? Yes, I suppose so, but in the end the sauce had a fresh, slightly sweet flavor to it. Now I know ancho chiles favor sweet spices. At this stage, be sure to check the salt. I found it needed more.

Drain the tongue and cut into thick slices. Arrange on a large platter in one slightly overlapping layer and cover with most of the sauce. Sprinkle the top with the olives and serve immediately. Pass the rest of the sauce separately.

Note: This dish can be prepared several hours, even a day, ahead and reheated. Leftovers can also be frozen sucessfully.

Shadowcook: The sauce did not much resemble the other Mexican chili sauces I’ve made out of this book and Rick Bayless’s. The almonds made a difference, I think. I liked it so much that I may use the remainder for another kind of meat, like pork.

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