Eat This

Alas Poor Yorick -- I Ate Him

For three months, I have leaned on (read: annoyed) the owners of Taqueria Pedrito, a family run taqueria in East Dallas, to purchase cow heads from the packaging plant in Weatherford that supplies their beef. So you can understand my excitement when I went there a couple of weeks ago and saw "cabeza de res" on the menu.I was happy to have tacos de ojo (cow eyes) for the first time and was even more satisfied to know it was my influence that got it on the menu. Then I learned that they also started purchasing baby goat heads, which, unlike the cabeza de res, they roast and serve whole. I was a bit miffed about not being consulted -- particularly because the goat, which I had not even thought to request, is so much tastier, offbeat and fun to eat.

Though "cabeza de chivo en total" isn't listed on the menu, most of the staff will understand if you simply say "goat head." (You might want to add a "please" in there, so no one misunderstands and gets insulted.) The head, about a foot tall, arrives wrapped in foil. All eyes in the restaurant are on your table -- two of them literally -- as you unwrap the foil and take in the first wonderful rush of meaty fumes. Finish unwrapping, and you find a goat skull staring back at you. Served with the normal taco accompaniments and the addition of avocado, one head easily provides enough food for two.

"Goat is delicious from the tail to the ears, but not everybody knows it," says Pedro Montoya, owner of Taqueria Pedrito.

So, where do you start?

As tempting as it might be to pick up the head and work its jaw like a muppet, playing with your food is rude. So save the comic voices, open the jaw wide and unhinge the lower half. Then pick at the meat inside. The tongue is readily identifiable and easily taken out. The cheek provides the greatest bounty, though you will have to pick around the skull to find all of it. For the more adventurous, which includes you at this point, you have two eyes to scoop out of their sockets and nestle in their new tortilla home. You can extract them whole with a little skill.

The cheek is moist and tender, the brain is mushy and the tongue is firm. What do goat eyeballs taste like? Well, gloopy and delicious. They're hard to describe, so you'll just have try it. Tell yourself it tastes "just like chicken" if that helps.

"When you eat the head, you have to eat everything. The tongue, the cheek, the eyes, everything," Montoya says. Once the exterior meat is gone, bring the skull back to the counter and have one of the staff open it with a cleaver to remove the brains. Two more tacos worth of meat remains for you to enjoy.

All told, this Mexican import is a delicious meal for $10 and the funnest thing I have eaten in Dallas, maybe in the States.

"I learned how to cook the goat head from my father when I was 7," Montoya says. "Thirty years ago, nobody wanted intestines, tripe or any of that...Now, we have people from Vietnam, Russia, El Salvador...and they want these meats".

I used to feel manly when eating a turkey leg at the fair, but now I have no reason to return a Renaissance fair (no huge loss). When I want my meal to boost my sense of machismo, I'm breaking down a goat skull with my bare hands. (But only on Friday-Sunday, the days goat head is available.)

Taqueria Pedrito 4910 Capitol Ave. 214-826-2940