I’m probably not winning over many friends with this post. Maybe I should just stick with cookies. Who doesn’t like cookies? In particular, gooey, warm out of the oven, chocolate chip cookies. In fact, I could use a cookie right now. Will trade you a homemade cookie for one of my tongue sliders 🙂
Then again, life is much more than a series of popularity contests. It’s often about following your passion, doing what interests or intrigues you. What can I say, I was curious about beef tongue.
Let me explain how I found myself with a whole cow’s tongue…
While my parents are not adventurous eaters by any stretch of the imagination, I did grow up eating tongue. Tongue is not a staple in most American households, though it did find its way into ours, owing to our family’s [Eastern European] ancestry more than anything else. This was the type of food my grandparents and great grandparents ate, primarily out of necessity, as tongue and the other odds and ends were the inexpensive scraps of meat they could afford. However, the tongue I recall eating growing up came from our local Jewish delicatessen, thinly sliced, stacked mile high on rye bread.
I remember eating tongue sandwiches for lunch as a kid. While I knew that what I was eating was called ‘tongue,’ I didn’t really make the connection that I was actually eating cow’s tongue. I think the disconnect had a lot to do with the fact that I never saw the tongue in its entirety. Rather, it came thinly sliced and nicely wrapped in white deli paper. Or maybe, I was just a naive kid?
But time and age have made me more inquisitive. So here I am with a cow’s tongue — after a brief internal debate as to whether I should indeed buy one; although, my curiosity always wins out.
Tongue in hand, all I needed to do is figure out is how to prepare it? Wish my grandparents were still around. Wish I could spend time with my grandmother in the kitchen, to learn about my culinary heritage. When I was younger, I wasn’t into food, not even a little bit (boy, have I come a long way), so never took advantage of the opportunity when I had the chance. If only I could turn back time…if only.
So instead, I relied upon a recipe from April Bloomfield’s A Girl and Her Pig and followed her instructions on brining the tongue. All the while I kept thinking, ‘What the heck am I doing with this cow’s tongue?‘ but in the end, it worked out perfectly.
The steps are simple and straightforward: 1) brine the tongue in a sugar and salt mixture for 4 days in the fridge, 2) boil until fork tender, about 2 hours, 3) peel the skin off the tongue (I have to admit, a bit strange even for me, but easy enough to do; it comes right off at this point), and 4) slice and grill.
While maybe an acquired taste, I must say, tongue is really good. A slow simmer in sherry vinegar and aromatics gives the tongue a touch of sweetness. Texture wise, the tongue is very tender to the bite.
I put my own touch on the tongue with the addition of an [Italian] salsa verde and quick pickled red onions.
Hope you give tongue a chance…
For the salsa verde, you can use any combination of fresh herbs to suit your liking. It’s base is primarily parsley, with the addition of whatever herbs I have on hand — whatever is growing in the garden, rosemary, tarragon, summer savory, thyme…
Next, just pound the herbs (and the rest of the ingredients) in a mortar and pestle with extra virgin olive oil until fairly smooth (but still a bit chunky). Alternatively, you can make the salsa verde in a food processor, but I like the rustic look of doing it by hand; plus, it’s a great way to relieve any pent up frustration.
The tongue came from Pecan Meadow Farm (14th/U Farmers’ Market, Washington, D.C.); Pecan Meadow Farm is in Newburg, PA.
1 cow’s tongue (recipe to follow)
Italian salsa verde (recipe to follow)
Quick pickled red onions (recipe to follow)
Lightly brush the inside of the buns with olive oil. Grill until lightly toasted. Place a few slices of grilled tongue on on the toasted bread. Top with salsa verde and pickled onion.
For the Brine
From April Bloomfield’s A Girl and Her Pig
4 quarts water
1 1/4 cups kosher salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 tablespoon juniper berries
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 whole clove
Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the salt and sugar. Cool, then chill. Add the tongue to the chilled brine. Refrigerate for 4 days. After 4 days, rinse off the brine with cold water and place the tongue in a pot.
For the Tongue
1 cow’s tongue
2 cups sherry vinegar
1/4 of a large carrot
1 celery stalk
1/4 of a yellow onion
cold water to cover
Add the sherry vinegar, carrot, celery, and onion to the pot with the tongue. Add enough water to cover the tongue. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and simmer until the tongue is fork tender, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Remove the tongue from the cooking liquid and while still warm, peel the outer skin from the tongue. Place the tongue back in the liquid and let cool in the fridge.
When cool, slice the tongue cross-wise into roughly 1/4 to 1/3-inch slices.
Heat up a grill pan or grill. Drizzle a little olive oil over the tongue to lightly coat. Season the sliced tongue with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill the tongue until it is hot and displays grill marks, a few minutes per side.
Italian Salsa Verde
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon of your favorite* herb, such as tarragon, summer savory, thyme, basil, oregano
1 tablespoon capers
2 anchovy filets
1 large clove of garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
pinch of red chile flakes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place the parsley, rosemary (and other herbs), capers, anchovies, garlic in a mortar and pestle and pound together into a course paste. Stir in the olive oil. Season with red pepper flakes, sea salt (if needed), and black pepper to taste.
Can be made a day or two in advance. Cover, refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving. Whisk well.
*Add whatever fresh herbs you enjoy and have on hand.
Quick Pickled Red Onions
1 medium red onion, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
Place the onion half, cut side down, and thinly slice. Rinse the onions (in a colander) with cold water (helps to remove its sharp bite). Drain well. Transfer the onions to a non-reactive bowl or jar, pour the lime juice on top, and stir in the salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight. Will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator.