By Robin Young
If you are like me, you like to follow traditions around the holidays.
Now that all the children are grown and Santa makes more of a sentimental visit, the time my family spends together is centered around food. Thanksgiving means making tamales, Christmas means making prime rib and New Year’s means making menudo.
As a child, I could never understand how someone could eat it — you know, that special ingredient. However, over the years, I have come to love this traditional Mexican soup. I’m fortunate that I spend holidays in Tucson, where there is no shortage of carnicerias selling plenty of all the ingredients needed for a delicious bowl of menudo, including the fresh tortillas brought in every day from Mexico.
So what is that special ingredient I was talking about? Tripe, or tripas, is the lining of a ruminant animal’s (cow, goat, sheep) stomach; in this case, it’s a cow. Yes, that is the part I had to get over being a byproduct from the slaughter of the cow. Tripe is an excellent and generally inexpensive source of lean protein and has a chewy texture. There are four different kinds of beef tripe, classified depending on which stomach chamber the product was derived from.
Blanket or flat tripe: This type is made from the first stomach chamber of cows. This smooth tripe is considered the least desirable.
Honeycomb tripe: This variety stems from the second stomach chamber and resembles a honeycomb. It’s more tender than blanket tripe and has a more palatable flavor.
Omasum or book tripe: Coming from the third stomach chamber, this type of tripe is described as a mix between blanket and honeycomb tripe.
Abomasum or reed tripe: This variety is from the fourth stomach chamber. Its taste varies from strong to mild.
There are many variations of recipes, but I will share my family’s recipe with you.
1 gallon of water
3 pounds lean beef tripe, cut into pieces
1 green onion for garnish
6 garlic cloves cut into small pieces.
1 bay leaf
2 heaping tablespoons of powdered beef broth
1 pound of fresh or 1 can (14.5 ounces) cooked hominy
Salt and pepper to taste
Other ingredients (optional: red or green chile, oregano, cumin, yellow onion)
In large pot (2 gallons), place the water over medium heat. Add the beef tripe, 6 garlic cloves, powdered beef broth, hominy and bay leaf and cook for at least 3 to 4 hours. Make sure the beef tripe is tender and not overcooked. Cook until fresh hominy flowers. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with green onion. Serve with homemade tortillas.
Menudo is an acquired taste. Mexicans swear that it’s a miracle cure for a hangover. I wouldn’t know anything about that.
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