These unusual sweet tamales from Mexico’s Gulf Coast, flavored with anise and studded with raisins, were a specialty of my grandmother, one of the three varieties of corn-husk-wrapped treats that she’d make for us when I was little.
From the Nahuatl word tetl, meaning “stone,” their name refers to their shape (less oblong than round) and their deep brown color. Like that of any fine European cake, the secret to their deliciousness is sugar and fat, in this case, piloncillo and a combination of lard and chales (the crunchy bits left after cooking carnitas). They’re rich and wonderful.
Beloved in Mexico, a country also in love with ears, snouts, and feet, tongue is often avoided in the U.S. Yet I urge you to try it slowly simmered then crisped on a griddle, because its impossibly tender texture and big beefy flavor have converted many a reluctant tacoeater.
The tongue is just as good simmered a day or two before you plan to serve it.