Today’s recipe post is a guest post. I met Christine five years ago in Philadelphia at the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers college recruiting conference. I manged to sneak my way onto the interview team representing my firmware lab. Christine was set to graduate from The City College of New York with a degree in Computer Science.
A couple of months after I had returned to Sacramento my manager setup a set of onsite interviews for Christine and we flew her out from New York. The rest as you say is history. Christine has been in my lab now for 5 years.
In addition to her interests in engineering and technology, Christine has always enjoyed cooking. Recently she took a 22-week culinary course through The International Culinary Center (founded as The French Culinary Institute) in Campbell, CA. She is also a fan of the Slow Food movement like we are.
One area of our own cooking that I’d like to improve upon is our ability to use more parts from the animals we eat. As you will see this post is definitely inspiring to say the least!
Thanks Christine, we look forward to more posts from you!
Slow Food – The Puerto Rican Way
In recent months, I have been drawn to offal. The amateur chef in me is learning not only to be more selective of the quality of meat I choose, but also less finicky about the cut of meat. It gets me to practice “nose to tail” cooking as best I can. So when a friend suggested a cooking day to learn more about my Puerto Rican heritage, I knew exactly what would be on the menu: beef tongue.
Beef Tongue = Offal. Offal = Slow Food. Slow Food = LOVE.
I had picked up a tongue a few weeks prior from Whole Foods, and though I had never cooked it before, I figured this was the perfect time to try my hand at it. Besides, I can find no better way to say, “Welcome to my home!” than a pot of stewed meat.
I found a recipe in my highly prized cookbook, Puerto Rican Cookery by Carmen Aboy Valldejuli (the English translation of her original cookbook, Cocina Criolla), and found a few other recipes to round out the meal.
Puerto Rican staples are harder to find here than in my native NYC, so I headed to La Superior SuperMercado in Natomas. What I found was disheartening: a virtually non-existent organic produce section, no sign of locality/seasonality, questionable meats obtained from who-knows-where, and high fructose corn syrup, MSG, and myriad of preservatives in all the well-known Puerto Rican staples. This is a far departure from the farmers’ market shopping I have grown to love here in the Sacramento area, but not surprising.
Working with the available selection, I purchased green plantains, yuca, salted cod, fresh farmer’s cheese made in-house, guava paste, and a variety of Malta (malt soda) from different countries. I was satisfied with my purchases, and rushed home to prepare.
I invited friends, and friends of friends over to my apartment, and set up the evening like a cooking class; everyone attending was going to help prepare the meal from start to finish. The only thing I had to prepare up front was the beef tongue, which needed to boil for a few hours to tenderize.
I was squeamish at first, but after a few minutes I was able to inspect the tongue, and feel its varying textures from the rough spiky taste buds at the tip, to the swirly, pad-like taste buds at the base of the tongue. I then put it in the pot to boil. After a few hours, it was time to remove its outer skin. This took a bit more work than anticipated, but I managed to get it off in one piece.
As evening time rolled around, the smells in my apartment were inviting, and I was so excited for my guests to arrive. Once they did, I put them right to work! We spent a few hours cooking, which was intertwined with questions, story-telling, tons of laughter, and some snacking in between. I could not have asked for a better time spent with friends.
We prepared tostones (fried green plantains) with garlic sauce, Spanish style chorizo (spicy cured sausage), bacalao (salted cod) salad with boiled yuca, and of course the beef tongue. Unfortunately, by the end of the night, we were too tired to even try the tongue! Though I did make sure that everyone went home with a piece of our delectable creation.
Note to self: don’t plan a slow food cooking night on a Monday!
Lengua Estofada (Smothered Beef Tongue)
From Puerto Rican Cookery, by Carmen Aboy Valldejuli, Serves 8.
A (phase one ingredients)
- 4-lb fresh beef tongue
- Water – (measure by quarts to cover tongue freely)
- Salt – (use 1 teaspoon salt for each quart of water)
B (phase two ingredients)
- 4 peppercorns (whole black peppers)
- 1 teaspoon whole dried oregano, crushed
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 quart (4 cups) water
C (optional ingredients)
- 1 ½ cups sweet or dry wine (see Note)
- ¼ cup sugar
- 12 dry prunes, pitted
- 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
- 1 pound onions, peeled and slices
- ½ teaspoon salt
1 – Scrub the tongue with a vegetable brush under warm running water. Drain and dry. Place in a large deep kettle. Add water and salt included in A.
2 – Bring rapidly to a boil, reduce heat to low, partially cover kettle, and simmer for 2 hours.
3 – Remove tongue and plunge into cold water. Remove from water and allow to cool slightly. Trim off bone and gristle at thick end. Peel tongue.
4 – Place tongue in a large caldero or heavy kettle. Add ingredients included in B and bring rapidly to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the tongue is almost fork-tender.
5 – Add ingredients included in C and bring rapidly to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until tongue is fork-tender. Taste and adjust seasoning.
6 – Remove tongue. Boil sauce over moderate heat until sauce thickens to taste.
7 – Cut tongue in slices and arrange on a serving platter, garnished with potatoes. Serve sauce in a deep dish.
Note: Sweet wine imparts distinctive flavor to the recipe, but it can be replaced, according to taste, by Burgundy or any other good dry red wines. Rest of ingredients included in C are optional.
– Christine R