A traditional Mexican dish, menudo rojo is a spicy soup made with beef tripe. You either love it or hate it. Luckily, I grew up loving the red menudo my mom would make. I guess people are thrown off with the tripe ingredient. Makes them a little leery about the soup. Preparing homemade menudo in my family typically signifies a major celebration, whether it be a wedding, baptism, or to ring in the New Year. To me it also signified love. This year, I plan to make several batches and invite family and friends over to share in the love, especially after some of the bigger celebrations. Did I mention it is also good medicine for the crudo (hangover)?
Menudo’s origins are firmly planted in peasant food heritage and poverty. According to research in pre-revolution Mexico, poverty among the campesinos was chronic and little if anything that might be prepared as food was left to waste. Usually, the best cuts of meat would go to the hacienda owners while the offal went to the poor workers. These leftovers consisted of organ meats, brains, head, tails, hooves, etc. Inventive peasant cooks created a soup that made good use of one of the major leftovers — the stomach. As cattle and sheep are ruminants that require lengthy intestinal tracts to digest their diet of grasses and raw seeds, the stomach is one of the largest pieces of offal available from these animals.
Be warned. Like tamales, making menudo is time and labor intensive as the tripe takes hours to cook (or else it is extremely tough). I will typically start the evening before by cleaning and soaking the tripe. I can then place the tripe in a large stockpot and allow it to simmer all night long before adding any of the red chile sauce. A special note on my menudo recipe, besides making my own red chile I throw in a can of Las Palmas red chile sauce for good measure. I can already hear cooks scream blasphemy! You really don’t need it. I just remember my mom adding it to her menudo broth. I prefer a thicker menudo broth so the Las Palmas and added chicken stock rounds it out with a more robust flavor. Also, be generous with the oregano. Like any good soup, continue to taste along the way and adjust salt and other seasonings accordingly to make sure it has enough flavor.
8 pounds honeycomb tripe, rinsed well and cut into 1-inch squares
5 pounds of beef tripe, rinsed well and fat trimmed
2 pounds of beef feet (patas), quartered
3 large yellow onion, diced
3 small heads of garlic, unpeeled, for broth
3 cloves garlic, peeled for red sauce
5 tablespoons of kosher salt, or to taste
5 teaspoons of Mexican oregano, dried
2 bay leafs
15 quarts water
For the Red Chile Sauce
4 dried Arbol chiles
10 dried guajillo chiles
2 cups of chicken stock
2 cans (6 pounds 9 oz) of white hominy, drained
3 tablespoons of ground cumin
*Optional: 1 (28 oz) can of Las Palmas Red Chile sauce. I add this to round out the flavor of the chile after it has been blended and pushed through a sieve.
Red chile powder flakes
Limes and lemons, quartered
Cleaning and Soaking the Tripe
Whether you are buying honeycomb tripe or another type of beef tripe, you want to take the time to trim away the fat. No one likes a greasy or foul-smelling menudo. After you trim the fat, cut the tripe into one-inch pieces and place in a large stock pot of water to soak for two hours, changing the water out at the one hour mark.
Making the Red Chile
Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles and toast on a dry skillet for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Pour enough water to cover, and allow to simmer at a low heat, soaking the chiles. Add one onion, halved and 3 cloves of peeled garlic. Allow to simmer for a good half hour. Remove the soaking chiles, onion and garlic from the water and place in a blender along with the cumin. Ladle about a cup of the simmering broth from the pot into the blender, and puree until very smooth. Add additional broth if necessary. Push chile sauce through a sieve into a medium-sized bowl to remove seeds and any skin. Discard solids. Reserve chile sauce in the refrigerator until it is time to add to the menudo broth.
Place the tripe, beef feet, onion, unpeeled garlic, peppercorns, salt, oregano, and water in a large stockpot or soup pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer uncovered for about 2 hours, or until the tripe and beef feet are tender but not too soft. Remove the unpeeled garlic.
Add the hominy and pour chile puree, plus the can of Las Palmas Red Chile Sauce and chicken stock into the simmering pot and stir. Allow to cook for about 3 hours (or more) on a low simmer. Season with additional salt to taste.
Serving the Menudo
Serve in large bowls, with dried oregano, cut-up lime wedges, diced onions, chopped cilantro, and warm tortillas smothered with butter at the table for each guest to customize their own bowl.