I’ve done a bit of run of the mill research on the history of the burrito, which really is a Cal-Mex thing, because this stuff always fascinates me. Apparently its origin was in Tijuana (Mexico’s food culture is street and family, not restaurant) where this guy would bring his little burro (burrito) into town with these tortilla wrapped savory items. It kind of indicates that the stuffed tortilla doesn’t really have anything to do with resembling a donkey or your ride home. In California the culture of the burrito seems to have begun around 1923 in Los Angeles at El Chollo which turned the idea into a local favorite. El Chollo is still there by the way. Fast forward 80 years; I’m living in an affluent beach town surrounded by wealthy gabachos. One of my favorite lunch places was Amigos Tacos in Manhattan Beach. They are serving up lengua and bucha tacos and burritos (tongue, hog maw) and I’m thinking who in this town besides me actually orders this stuff? And then one day at lunch this gang of day laborers in paint and plaster spattered T-shirts rushes in. And then it happened again. Now I get it. So here is my take on tongue in adobo. It took me a long time to figure out the adobo that it cooks in but now I think I have it down. If you want to make tacos instead, well you can go there. The filling is the same. —pierino
beef tongue (or else two lamb tongues if you are lucky) about 2 pounds
dried ancho chiles
dried arbol chiles
dried ancho chiles
"points" of star anise
1 ½ ounces of dark chocolate*
celery stalk, halved
1 bunch cilantro
Tortillas of your choice
In This Recipe
Make a bouquet garnie using the celery, the bay leaves and a fist full of cilantro (stems on). Tie that up with kitchen twine.
Place the tongue in a large pot and cover with water. Add the bouquet and pepper corns. Bring that to a simmer and turn on the baseball or hockey game. This is going to take about two and one half hours.
Remove the tongue and hold back about 2 cups of the “stock” you just made. Trim the tongue as there might be some bone at the back end (if there is it has already done its work, so throw it away). Using a sharp knife remove the skin. This is easier to do when the meat is still warm.
Now make your adobo---and you can do this with the ball game on in the background. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Even your wife can do that. Stem the chiles and empty out as many seeds as you can. Place them in a large bowl and cover them with boiling water. Go back to the hockey game.
Using a mortar or a spice grinder, grind up the cassia and star anise. Grate the chocolate.
In the bowl of a blender place your now reinvigorated chiles. Add the garlic cloves, cumin, chile powder, cassia/anise mixture, salt and chocolate. Moisten with some of the chile soaking liquid. Let it rip. There’s your sauce.
It’s now 2-1 Blackhawks.
Cut the tongue up into very small pieces. Heat some lard in a dutch oven or use canola oil if you are a sissy. Saute the tongue just to color. Using a spatula work in your adobo mixture. Add some of the reserved stock and braise, partially covered, for about 30 minutes keeping an eye on the liquid.
Warm your tortillas (large for the big donkey or small for tacos). Fill and wrap.
Notes to cooks: *I used Valrohna chocolate because it's what I had on hand. You can also use Mexican piloncillos.
**A Cal-Mex variation is the "wet burrito". Top with addtional sauce, some grated cheese and run it under a broiler. Top with crema (Mexican style sour cream) and chopped cilantro. An accompaniment could radishes, carrots and jalapenos pickled in vinegar.
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.