Short orders

Tip-top tongue

January 9, 2008

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The key to great tacos de lengua (tacos filled with beef tongue), explains Rosticeria Cancun chef-owner Lionel Betancol, is timing. As one of the hardest working muscles on a cow, the tongue is unpalatably rubbery if undercooked, but disintegrates into a fibrous mass if taken too far. Lionel poaches tongues 14 at a time in an onion and tomato-spiked cooking liquid, just until the skin loosens up. Diced and served on fresh corn tortillas, the flavorful cut needs no more than a sprinkling of onions and cilantro, which, after the overwrought and overstuffed offerings at most Tex-Mex joints, is revelatory in its simplicity. Equally simple but delicious are grilled beef, chicken, and pork tacos or the Salvadoran pupusas con chicharron, which are thick corn tortillas stuffed with braised pork belly and cheese (all these items are under $1.95). A little something to keep you nourished and away from the debt collectors in lean January. Rosticeria Cancun, 37 Maverick St., East Boston, 617-567-5808. - J. KENJI ALT

Good to go
Small sandwich is a big deal
Alina Morris can't tell you the weight of the roast beef sandwich ($3.95 for a small; $4.95 for a large) at DJ's European Deli & Market. Thin slices of warm roast beef are piled into rolls "until the sandwich looks full," says Morris, who along with her brother, Les Jurczuk, took over the shop from their parents about four years ago. The smaller version, served on a crusty homemade roll, is still enormous and one of the most popular sandwiches on the menu, says Morris, with corned beef and pastrami not far behind. People also visit the Polish deli for kielbasa sandwiches, stuffed cabbage, fresh pierogi, and daily homemade soups, which all sound ideally hearty, no matter how much they weigh. DJ's European Deli & Market, 120 Boston St., Dorchester, 617-436-9766. - LEIGH BELANGER

Cold comfort from cabbage
Cold cabbage summons images of dinner in a Dickensian poor house. Until you try cabbage Vlora-style. "My wife is addicted to it," says Vlora's chef and owner Aldo Velaj (left), who named his restaurant after his hometown in southwestern Albania. "It's very traditional in Vlora. It's not me being a genius chef." Velaj steams chopped white cabbage until just tender, then coats it with red wine vinegar, olive oil, parsley, finely chopped onion, and finally Kalamata olives ("olives with character," says Velaj), chosen for their pungent, bitter flavor. The cabbage marinates for two hours. It's a side dish ($5.25) and offered with all entrees including pan roasted sea bass ($27.75). An antidote to winter stodge. Vlora, 545 Boylston St., 617-638-9699, - LINDA LABAN