If you frequent taco trucks or authentic taquerias, you have probably seen tacos de lengua on the menu. It’s one of the most popular taco meats in Mexico. What are tacos de lengua, you ask? They are slow-simmered tongue, seasoned well and diced into small bits before being seared in a skillet or on a griddle.
While tongue hasn’t traditionally been as favored in most parts of the U.S., the rise in popularity of authentic Mexican cuisine means more and more people are learning just how good it is. We often save the tongues from our deer and elk specifically for these tacos.
You can use straight elk, straight deer, or a combination of the two. Just make sure you have about 2 pounds total. For this batch, we used one elk and two whitetail tongues.
To remove the tongue from the animal, simply pry open the mouth, grasp the tongue, and pull it up and out, then use a sharp knife to free it from where it attaches to the back of the jaw. Trim away the rough patch of meat where the tongue was attached. Scrub the tongues well with a bristle brush under running water to clean. Freeze with the skin on. It will get removed later in the process.
2 to 3 pounds deer or elk tongues
3 quarts cold water
3 large white onions, peeled
2 dried ancho chile peppers
1 dried New Mexico chile pepper
1 head garlic, cloves slightly crushed and peeled
6 bay leaves
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons taco seasoning of your choice (recipe here if you would like to make your own)
18 corn tortillas
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup queso fresco cheese, crumbled (optional)
Start by simmering the tongues to tenderize.
Add the water, 2 of the white onions, quartered, the dried chile peppers, garlic cloves, bay leaves, salt, and peppercorns to a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Bring the mixture to a boil. Finely dice the remaining onion and set it aside as a topping.
Add the tongues to the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer, partly covered, for 2 to 3 hours, or until you can stick a sharp knife into the tongue without much resistance. Remove the tongues from the pot and submerge in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
Use your fingers or a knife to remove the outer skin from the tongue. Discard the skin. Use a sharp knife to dice the meat into roughly 1/4-inch cubes. Heat the oil up either in a large cast-iron skillet or on a griddle. Sear the tongue, adding the taco seasoning as you do. The meat is already cooked through. You just need to crisp it up, so 3 to 5 minutes should be plenty. Remove the meat to a bowl and cover. Heat the tortillas in the same skillet or on the griddle.
To serve, build a taco. You don’t need me to tell you how to do that. Top the meat with a sprinkling of diced white onion and chopped fresh cilantro. Add a bit of crumbled fresco cheese, if desired. Serve with lime wedges and salsa verde.
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