Dr. Ellen Riojas Clark: Dr. Ellen Riojas Clark is a star in bilingual-bicultural studies and a great cook, in addition to all her academic achievements. In her bright Mexican-style kitchen, where new ideas and old traditions live together, she shows how to make a tasty “lengua” with her unique twist.
For people new to the world of food, cow tongue, or “lengua” as it is more commonly known, is more than just a simple cut of meat. It is a flexible ingredient that is served all over the world. Dr. Clark says, “It can ascend to the heights of haute cuisine or find its place ‘de la casa,’ as a cherished family staple.”
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Dr. Clark’s kitchen is turned into a busy stage for a cooking show that shows how easy it is to make “lengua” with the revered “sacred leaf,” or “hoja santa.” This leaf, also called the Mexican pepper leaf or the rootbeer plant leaf, has a light scent that makes you think of the famous drink.
In the past, “lengua” was called “la comida de los ,” which meant food for low-income families determined not to throw anything away. However, Dr. Clark says that these particular families were very good at being creative and resourceful.
From Dr. Clark’s point of view, the beef tongue tastes like garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt. The language is carefully covered in “hoja santa,” which gives it a mild, unique taste. If “hoja santa” is unavailable, it is wrapped in aluminium or just foil. The magic happens in a slow cooker called a crock pot, and then the skin is taken off.
“Let it simmer through the night, and you’ll wake up to a sumptuous creation,” she tells us. In addition to being healthy, it tastes smooth and high-class.
The result is a delicious barbacoa that’s perfect for tacos for breakfast on the weekends. Dr. Clark says to put a lot of pico de gallo, finely chopped onions, and warm tortillas on top to make a tasty melody that dances on the tongue.
Hispanic Heritage Month is coming up. Dr. Clark says, “This dish encapsulates our history, the essence of our upbringing, and our culinary preferences, serving as a delicious reminder of our cultural roots.”