I know I’ve been going off topic lately, covering everything from baseball to my travels, but I assure you this post isn’t about that 80’s boy band that incubated no-talent hacks stars like Ricky Martin.
Some of you may consider this comforting Mexican offal stew equally cringe-worthy, but I think it gets a bum wrap because of the odd ingredients, which admittedly require some amount of care to prepare correctly. I have to tell you though that this piquant and hearty stew is the perfect recovery food after a long night spent throwing back cervezas.
To be totally honest, I’m not a huge fan of offal. The strong minerally taste of liver and kidney keep those organs off my plate and out of my kitchen. Tripe is a different animal though (figuratively if not literally) and when prepared properly it’s downright mild in comparison to other organ meats.
Like in many cultures, Menudo’s origins are rooted in the fact that offal was considered a garbage cut and was thus very cheap. This made it a good source of protein for the masses. Today, there are many regional variations, but most include tripe , which are the stomachs (yes they have more than one) of ruminant animals.
I’ve used a combination of honeycomb tripe (the second stomach of a cow) along with pig trotters, for a rich collagen laden broth. By soaking, par boiling then braising the tripe for hours in an aromatic broth, all but the faintest traces of the stomach’s former contents are eliminated. The slow braise converts the connective tissues into gelatin and the naturally spongy structure of the tripe help it absorb all the good flavours in the cooking liquid.
While they may not look it, the trotters are quite tame in comparison to tripe and have started showing up on menu’s all over the country. In New York City, there’s even a Japanese restaurant that specializes in pig trotters. When cooked for a long time, they create a wonderful stock, and the connective tissue and cartilage soften to a jelly like consistency that’s creamy, rich and fulfilling. After the bones are removed and the meat is cut up, you really wouldn’t know what it was unless you were looking for it.
The finished dish has a bright red color coming from the sweet dried guajillo chilies. With small bits of starchy hominy, this makes for a wonderfully satisfying all-in-one meal. To give the slow cooked stew a little freshness, and to further obscure the offal, serve this with a healthy squeeze of lime juice, onions and cilantro. The leftovers are fantastic served with scrambled eggs and tortillas.