My Menudo Recipe

menudochiliesI don’t want to lose weight, stand in line at the gym, or make short-lived resolutions for 2014 - I resolve to live in the moment.

Days before the holiday I decided that Menudo was my good luck dish for this New Year’s Day. It could have been black-eyed peas or slow cooked green with pot liquor, or lentils with something but I’ve been craving Menudo for months! Menudo is tripe soup with Guajillo chiles, onions, garlic, white hominy and a few other slippery slope ingredients. I planned on freezing 11 little bags of this potion, just in case my luck needs to be topped off…

I thought about creating my Menudo for days. I dragged every cookbook out on the subject and read all about it. I visited with Rick Bayless and Diana Kennedy and that was long overdue. This good luck dish was turning into an adventure. Sure, I could have bought a can of Menudo and left it at that, or flown to Tucson, but instead I drove an hour south in light snow flurries to collect the ‘unusual’ ingredients. I had my grocery list and I was ready for some interaction with the human race after being isolated by bad weather.


menudopotMy list required many or rather too many stops as I rushed against the clock. I feared the stores would close early on New Year’s Eve afternoon. Fortunately, I met the most genuine people and it was delightful. Long and involved conversations unfolded everywhere. I love that and stopped rushing, I was enjoying it. If I didn’t get everything on my list, so be it. I wouldn’t starve. My new friends probably thought they wouldn’t see me again, so our dialog was honest, heck, why not? Was it New Year’s Eve afternoon creating the magic or an aberration in time? Everyone wanted to talk and tell me things like I wasn’t a stranger.

The simple question I asked at several small bodegas was “Do you eat Menudo?” Simply question? It was like lighting a Roman candle. I asked old, young and in between. The conversations went in every direction - their mothers, family, leaving their country, raising kids, cooking, and love but at first they all looked at me for the longest minute as they each tried to figure out if I was indeed of Spanish origin. Nope, their first thought. Well maybe an assimilated person of Spanish origin, ‘like I will be’ someday, they thought. I thought so lovingly of my father when they stared at me. As each person tried to figure ‘me’ out. Here I was thinking about my father and his plight to assimilate in his new world so I didn’t have to. They all had the same look in their eyes just like my Dad. We talked about that, too.

How simple it was for me: I love Menudo, I didn’t have to be Spanish or Mexican or Salvadoran. I was reminded that I have the good fortune of choice. A choice, that is something that a newly immigrated person doesn’t know or understand or feel - YET. I have had choice all my life. Big lesson learned for 2014, now back to the Menudo…

I love Menudo, hopelessly. I could eat it everyday but I choose not to. It doesn’t qualify in my life as healthy food for ingesting into my ‘temple’. I have high food values so I will never eat it often though I lust to. I don’t open cans or jars often nor do I eat food with labels so not knowing where the meat ingredients came from for my 2014 Menudo was a BIG leap. My New Year’s splurge was a quick moment in time to ignore my self-imposed food standards.

menudotripeShopping for the meats was like walking out on a diving board and knowing full well that there was no water underneath. Scary. Here I was buying tripe at the Asian grocer and I had a choice of 4 kinds! Ouch! Tripe is a dangerous ingredient - mad cow, bacteria, E. coli, and who knows what else. I was thinking about it too much, but I needed to eat Menudo so badly. Plus, I needed beef hooves and pig’s trotters as well. Mercy, lord, have mercy! Menudo is Russian roulette. I reassured myself that I was making it on MY stove, which would lessen the risk. I kept mumbling that to myself.

From my Menudo story, all of it, I gratefully learned the following: I reflected on how lucky I have been, long before the tripe soup simmered on my stove. After all, I was cooking the Menudo in the house I have lived in since I was born. I love my home and I love living in Maine. I had 2 of the best parents in the World - serious ones. Generous to a fault and not with coinage buried in the black-eyed peas, I mean with unconditional love.

They shepherded their flock-my sister and me. They walked along with the two of us until they felt that we were ‘fine’ and ‘finished’ enough, to let go - enough to let us grow and make our own roots. They watched us as we each created the people we are. My sister and I are as different as night and day but we share the same strong roots.

So, yes, the Menudo DOES have lucky properties because it told me a humbling story that 2014 is a year of self actualizing for me - taking risks, writing more, digging deeper, being happy and letting my creativity form a wake behind me.

My lucky Menudo recipe:

3 lbs. honeycomb tripe, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 beef hoof, buy it already cut up (1 3/4 lbs.)
1 whole pig’s foot (1 3/4lbs.)
3 large bay leaves

Add water to cover the meats by 1 inch. Bring to a simmer and skim off the scum, foam and fat that collects on the surface of the broth as it cooks for 2 hours.

How to make the guajillo chili paste - the flavoring agent

6 whole dried guajillo peppers, remove stems and seed, break in half. Cover the dried peppers with hot water for 1 hour or more. In a food processor process 1 chopped onion, 3 whole garlic cloves along with the 6 soaked peppers and a small amount of soaking liquid. Add more liquid if necessary to make it into a paste. Add all the chili paste to the broth and stir well. I next add ½ cup of chopped fresh cilantro, 1½ tsp. dried oregano, ground pepper and more salt than I will admit to - so taste it and you decide.

I was taught to remove the meat from the bones before serving but not taking the meat off gives this hardy soup a wonderful rustic appeal. You decide - I served the meat on the bones. Serve big bowls of piping hot Menudo garnished with chopped cilantro and onions. Have quartered limes available on the side.

This will serve 8 hungry people.


Brenda Athanus runs a small gourmet food shop in Belgrade Lakes, Maine with her sister Tanya called the Green Spot.

The Green Spot
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