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Barbacoa... Is that a foreign food?  What is it?  Well, if you live in southern Texas, or northern Mexico, you'll know about barbacoa, as it's a popular Sunday morning-after-church dish.  Barbacoa is little-known in NorCal, but since I'm an ambassador of many cultures, we chose to enjoy barbacoa at our place, on Saturday, April 12, 2014.

Photo:  Alright, so you don't normally see beef heads, cow heads, or whatever you want to call them at you your local butcher shop in NorCal.  But if you're a fan of barbacoa, in the style of Texas or Mexico, you'll know a butcher who is connected, to order a "cabeza."  I know the butcher in Roseville...

Photo:  The cabeza and I both show our teeth for the camera.  I removed the "lengua," or tongue, as you NEVER want to BBQ it with the cabeza; the lengua will be cooked in the crock pot for "tacos de lengua" at another occasion.  The cabeza weighs about 20 pounds, and yields about 5 pounds of meat, including the tongue and the brains.  The bones should be saved, as they add flavor for menudo, beef stew, or anything that utilizes beef.  

Photo:  In the true style of U.S. border areas, and northern Mexico, I addled pepper and onion slices to the cabeza before wrapping it in aluminum foil, and placing it on the smoker.  As per my request, I had the cabeza cut, by my butcher, using is band saw, into several pieces, for easier access.  Much to my chagrin, after I attempted to take photos, the owner of the canircaria shouted, "No! No! No!... No photos!" So I didn't get to take many photos.  Sorry guys... the next time I smoke barbacoa, I'll go elsewhere to purchase a cabeza, as there are many other places in Roseville that are "photo friendly." I slammed Carniceria Familia Lopez Market, due to the hostile atmosphere the owner of the place provided, after I specifically asked permission to photograph their operation, from one of their employees.  

Photo:  As long as I had the smoker going, it seemed appropriate to throw on a few tomatillos, pepper, onion and garlic to make some salsa verde, to enjoy with the barbacoa.  I smoked the ingredients for salsa verde for about three hours, then I threw everything into the blender, added a pinch of salt, whirled everything around for a couple of minutes, and enjoyed salsa verde on my tacos.  

Photo:  I fired up the smoker at 0800, and put in the meat at 0915.  It's an all-day process, as the protocol calls to smoke the meat long and slow.  I kept the temperature at about 200 degrees, but, in order to finish off the meat, I raised the temperature up to 300 degrees during the last hour.  I smoked the cabeza for about eight hours.

Photo:  Still on the smoker, I peeled back the aluminum foil, and I was rewarded with this fine sight of a well-cooked cabeza.  My first thought was that I cooked it too long, but after the fact, I found that I got it right.  Nothing is exact when you're smoking meat over oak wood for hours!

Photo:  The cabeza is smoked, and ready to pull apart.  After the meat cooled, I cut all of the meat from the bone, removed the brain and the eyes, and mixed it all together.  That's called "mixta," which is what I prefer when it comes to barbacoa.

Photo:  Close-up photo of teeth, after the cabeza has been cooked, and is being made into "mixta."  I really wonder whether this cow used dental floss?  I saved all of the bones, skin and teeth to be used for flavoring in meat broth, and maybe for my next batch of menudo.

Photo:  If you discount the tongue, which will be slow-cooked in the crock pot at a later date, a cabeza yields about three pounds of meat.  This is "mixta," meat, brains and eyes, all mixed together, for barbacoa!  So, at $25.00 for the cabeza, altogether, you get about five pounds of meat, which doesn't make it, exactly cheap.  But, it's good, it's unique, and it's a meal that I enjoy!

Photo:  Barbacoa goes well with corn tortillas, so I'm cooking corn tortillas on the griddle, so enjoy tacos de barbacoa tonight.

Photo:  Saturday, April 12, 2014... After eight hours of smoking the cabeza, I enjoy barbacoa tacos along with the salsa verde I prepared on the smoker.  As an aside, a glass or two of Pacifico beer helped keep the party going...

Photo:  Sunday, April 13, 2014, I enjoyed leftover barbacoa, to today, I garnished my tacos with salsa cruda, which is one of my all-time favorite garnishes for tacos, or just about anything.  My salsa cruda is my number one most requested item, at any get-together or pot luck, so click here for the recipe.  Muy sabroso!

Yes, barbacoa isn't "mainstream" in Roseville, or anywhere else in California, but  it's good, it's traditional, and it's truly "comfort food" for much of Texas, and northern Mexico.  Barbacoa is here to stay!

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