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Beef Cheek Cabeza
La Campaña

At pricey French restaurants, many menus offer a comforting Gallic dish that's grown increasingly voguish in the past five years: slow-cooked cheeks of beef or veal. The same item is also available for a pittance at numerous authentic taquerias, only there it's called cabeza ("head") and is usually offered as a filling for a plateful of small, soft-shelled tacos. Whether it's French or Mexican, the cooking method and the result are pretty much the same -- after simmering for about three hours, the cheek emerges fork-tender, shreddy, and deep-flavored, moistened by the broth of its own rich stewing liquid. You can find tacos de cabeza at most of the "Berto's" taquerias; a particularly tasty version is served in a pleasant family atmosphere at La Campaña. If you want to cook it yourself, the meat is inexpensive, and you can make the portions small (cheek makes a better starter than main course), but you'll need to buy twice as much meat as you plan to serve. The first cooking step is to trim off all the fat and silverskin (the tough, translucent membrane) -- and there goes half your meat. Then you can cut the cheek up and stew it in a combination of beef broth, water, wine, what-have-you. Raw beef cheeks are usually available at Latin groceries with butcher counters, including Food Bowl (Fern and Cedar in South Park) and Miller's Market (30th and C in Golden Hill).

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