Available in a wide variety of flavors and textures, tacos are a staple of great tasting Mexican food. Tacos de cabeza, made from an assortment of cuts of beef simmered in a spicy chile infused broth, offers a rich and sumptuous taco experience that will not disappoint. Addictively delicious, Tacos de cabeza easily win over the most reserved diner and are a consistent crowd pleaser.
Tacos de Cabeza
2 whole beef tongues (plus the one that comes with the head)
5 lb beef chuck roast
5 lb beef sirloin roast
1 whole head of cow, thawed
1 large whole white onion, peeled
1 whole head of garlic
1 bunch of cilantro
¼ lb guajillo chiles, veins and seeds removed
3 ancho chiles, veins and seeds removed
6 de arbol chiles, veins and seeds removed
¼ cup ground cumin
¼ cup garlic powder
¼ cup ground cloves
¼ cup ground black pepper
½ cup salt
corn tortillas, warmed
finely chopped onion
finely chopped cilantro
salsa for tacos
Wash meat well and place in a very large stock pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil with onion, garlic, and cilantro. Cover with a lid and boil for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
While meat is boiling, place chiles in a large pot with a lid, cover with water, and simmer for 20 minutes or until chiles are very soft and falling apart. Remove chiles to a blender jar, adding cooking liquid as needed, and blend until very smooth. In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine spices and chile sauce. At the 1 hour 15 minute mark, add chile mixture to the meat, cover and cook for an additional 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until tender.
Remove pot from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. Once meat is safe to handle, remove large pieces individually and chop as for tacos. For the tongues, remove all tough outer skin before chopping. For the head, use the meat from the cheeks and lip area and set aside the brains and eyes for use in tacos by request. Be sure to finely chop and include a good amount of the fat to ensure the meat has a rich texture and flavor. Also, take care to remove any cartilage or gristle. Mix chopped meats from all sources and ladle small amounts of broth over it to season well. Check for salt. Meat should be moist but not soggy. Serve in warmed corn tortillas and garnish with finely chopped onion, cilantro, lime juice and salsa. Serves 18 people.
Note: the flavor will be even better if the meat is prepared a day ahead.
Tacos de Cabeza in Chicago:
Tacos de cabeza are not sold as such in restaurants in the Chicagoland area. However, the resulting broth and meat, when served together as a soupy dish, is actually better known as Birria, which can be found locally in specialty restaurants called Birrierias. For the adventurous Mexican foodie who would like to make these sumptuous tacos at home, every necessary cut of meat can be obtained at your local Mexican grocer. For best results, it is advisable to call ahead for the whole cow’s head and confirm availability. In addition, if cooking a whole head is not practical, purchasing only the meat from the cheeks and lips is a secondary option that the butcher may offer. A reliable source for the cow’s head is Supermercado Joliet.