Over Columbus Day weekend we had a taco competition at our friend Buschy’s apartment in Boston. Conor was planning to make his whitefish tacos with garlic and cilantro aioli and Buschy was planning his traditional, but delicious, turkey meat, black bean, and corn tacos. With Hi Lo nearby, I decided to make beef tripe tacos since I had seen them on various travel/food shows and Conor had raved about them after his visit to Mexico last year.
Don’t you hate it when you plan to cook a cow stomach on Sunday and then you go for dim sum on Saturday… and eat cow stomach?!?! LOL!!! No? Oh. Well, thats what happened and I felt like I should try something new on Sunday. So, Sunday morning I walked over to Hi Lo and bought a pig stomach, various interesting canned items and a stack of corn tortillas. The canned items included:
Huitlacoche is a fungus that grows on corn and turns the corn black. Some adventurous soul gave it a taste many years ago and realized it’s delicious potential. It has a tough to describe taste, reminiscent of mushrooms but sweeter. I am very likely to order any menu item that features huitlacoche, but I had a few concerns about what a canned version would taste like. Back to the stomach…
The stomach was basically a stack of rinsed pig stomachs compressed into a block and sliced into rectangles. Once out of the package, I separated the pieces, rinsed them and started some water boiling.
Once the water was boiling, the stomach pieces went in for about 10 minutes. The main goal was to get any unnecessary nasty stuff to boil up to the top where it could be skimmed off.
Once the ten minutes were up, the lightly boiled pieces went into a bowl for scrubbing.
White vinegar and salt were added to the bowl and I basically treated the stomach pieces like I was hand-washing laundry; each piece was scrubbed against another piece. I did this for a bit, dumped the liquid, rinsed under water, then went through the scrubbing process with vinegar and salt again.
Gave the pieces a final rinse under tap water and then cut the stomach into smaller squares. The smaller pieces would be easier to tenderize during the next round of boiling that would last multiple hours.
On the stove, I brought a mixture of water, chicken stock, tomato paste, onion, garlic, and a few bay leaves to a boil and added the stomach pieces.
At this point the lid went on, I knocked the heat down to low, and left it to cook for five anxious hours. Luckily, I had NFL football and Conor’s delicious halibut tacos to help pass the time. Here’s how it looked when the lid finally came off and it was time to drain off the cooking liquid:
I took a piece out and gave it a try. The stomach had become very tender and taken on some of the flavors from the cooking liquid. It had a light but distinct pork flavor, almost like a very overcooked pork chop. It was definitely ready for final prep so I drained the cooking liquid.
This is where we come to a bit of a crossroads in the cooking process and, unfortunately, I once again ended up regretting the path I chose. Originally, my plan was to brown the stomach in a pan with garlic and onions then add some worcestershire sauce and taco seasoning to finish it. However, I ended up overthinking it by not wanting to use taco seasoning and instead keep it a little more authentic. Enter a can of chipotle peppers that I roughly chopped and added to the onions and garlic I had simmering in the pan.
I made the following mistakes when adding the peppers: 1) I should have rinsed the smokey sauce off of them, 2) I should have checked to make sure they were seeded, and 3) I should have tasted them to see how spicy they were. I did none of these things, but only discovered the error of my ways after it was too late and the stomach had been mixed in.
After tasting a spoonful and urgently drinking an entire beer to eliminate the inferno in my mouth, I went into crisis mode. I did the only two things I could think of to calm down the spicyness; add a chopped bell pepper and half a beer to thin out the sauce a bit.
Not sure either would be considered a real way to fix the situation and neither helped much. The final product looked like this:
I grabbed a freshly heated corn torilla and tried a stomach taco with just lime and cilantro and… it was actually pretty good.
The spiciness could definitely sneak up on you, and if you bit into a chipotle pepper seed you were in for some pain, but that first taco was nowhere near as spicy as the initial spoonful I had. So I had a second, but this time I utilized the extensive toppings bar we had put together:
The second was the same as the first, but with a spoonful of the aioli as well.
The meat had a chewy texture but it basically fell apart after a bite or two. The flavor was a smoky pork and chili mixture with the freshness of the cilantro, lime and garlic making a great combination. I ended up having a third taco that was identical to this one, but not before I tried the huitlacoche with a turkey taco.
The huitlacoche had some of the flavors I was looking for but you could tell it was from a can and was missing the stronger flavors of what you’d find in a restaurant. I probably wouldn’t buy it again.
As far as the rest of the attendees at football Sunday, there were mixed opinions on the stomach.
Annie’s sister Erin (just behind Conor) ate a taco, didn’t remark once about the spice and claimed to enjoy it. Conor on the other hand was seen sprinting into the kitchen with tears streaming down his face and came out with a pint of milk. To his credit, he ended up trying it a second time and eventually added smaller amounts to other tacos he made. Buschy tried a bite, chewed with his eyes closed and then said it was “good” and didn’t eat anymore. Pretty standard. Oh and “tacos de buche” means pig stomach tacos in case you haven’t figured that out yet.
And that was it. Once again, I attempt to make something challenging and end up wanting to take another crack at it sometime in the future. We’ll see, its not tops on my list of redos at the moment.
Next week, a completely new life experience for me that led to a delicious meal.