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Menudo Makes The Big Time
By Lucio Orduño
First Hollywood discovered silver and turquoise jewelry. Then boots and cowboy hats. Prices on all soared in the Southwest. But the fickle stars soon lost interest in these everyday symbols of the West, and prices stabilized. Then the West Coast discovered blue corn and commercialized it.
Menudo is a weekend and holiday favorite and rarely sells for more than $3.50 a serving in any restaurant in this area. Its preparation from scratch is time-consuming because of the meats used, but menudo can be bought already prepared in local tortillerias, shops selling tamales, and even in supermarkets in cans. But aficionados usually prefer the homemade version.
While menudo in this area is most often made with beef tripe (the lining of the stomach), beef knuckles, pigs' feet, ox feet or calves' feet can be substituted or combined with the tripe. Cleaning, cutting and cooking the meat may take hours. Similarly, preparing red chile from the whole dry peppers takes time. Some cooks take a shortcut and use frozen or canned red chile.
The meat is often cooked with onions, garlic and other spices and is then combined with chile, prepared hominy and oregano, the essential spice in menudo. The soup should simmer anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how processed the original ingredients are,
Variations occur not only in the preparation of menudo but also in the serving. Often dished up in large, deep bowls, menudo lends itself to a number of garnishes, and border residents all have their favorites. Chopped chiles serranos, finely chopped onion, wedges of lemon, fresh green tomato sauce, Tabasco sauce, dried oregano, fresh cilantro and peppermint are among the most common additions to the hot, steaming soup. Hot corn or flour tortillas or bolillos (small white rolls) accompany the menudo
Opinions differ in regard to the curative powers menudo has on hangovers. Some say the hot chile causes a person to sweat out the poison (alcohol) in their systems. Others believe the tripe absorbs the alcohol. But whether or not there is a medical basis for these ideas, the folk beliefs continue. Many a Friday or Saturday night partygoer indulges in a morning bowl of menudo before facing the rest of the world again.