Serious Eats

The Nasty Bits: Yak Tongue

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This yak tongue was exactly a foot long. It is, to date, one of the best tongues I have tried. For an animal whose flesh is not particularly well-marbled, yak's tongue is speckled with fat and will cook slowly to fork-tender softness. Would it be too strange to say that the tongue melted on my tongue?

Lengua adovada is not a dish you're likely to find on a New Mexican menu, but you will see carne adovada. Tongue is used widely in regions of Mexico, while in New Mexico, pork loin or shoulder are the more common cuts. Carne adovada translates roughly to "pickled meat," a vestige of days when pork was preserved in a mixture containing dried red chili powder and salt.

In its modern version, the meat is smothered in a paste of dried red chili peppers, onions, garlic, and various spices. Dried red chili, that smoky-sweet powder so prevalent in the cuisine here, colors the paste bright-red and gives the mixture a rough, sandy quality. This red sludge will coat the meat and cook with the meat, so that after a two or three-hour period of braising, the scant liquid in the pan is thick-bodied and concentrated in flavor.

Earthy is frequently used to describe the flavor of meat that has been marinated and cooked in such a way. I have no objections to calling carne adovada earthy, but the word cannot capture the whole effect of using so much red chili powder in one dish. The powder imparts an almost raw and chalky flavor to the sauce. It's very mysterious to me.

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I haven't had many good carne adovada dishes made with pork loin. This was when the cooks took pains not to overcook the loin. But the best carne adovada dishes use pork shoulder, which is fatty and therefore moist when cooked. This is why, when presented with a yak tongue, my immediate thought was to smother the rich and fatty organ in an adovada preparation and to leave it in a low and slow oven for hours, which is what I did.

I left the oven at 250°F and went on a long hike in the canyons. When I returned home, the smell of yak (kind of like pork) and chili powder (kind of earthy) produced a heady scent in kitchen.

Slice the tongue into thick slabs and spoon some of the sauce onto the plate. For good measure, cover the naked areas of the plate with green chile sauce; beans and rice would be good, too.

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About the author: Chichi Wang took her degree in philosophy, but decided that writing about food would be much more fun than writing about Plato. She firmly believes in all things offal, the importance of reading great books, and the necessity of three-hour meals. If she were ever to get a tattoo, it would say "Fat is flavor." Visit her blog, The Offal Cook.

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