If you haven’t gotten enough offal from the sweetbreads and the kidney posts, we have one more for you here. If you have had enough, then I promise this is the last one for a while (until we pull the goat hearts out of the freezer). While tongue (and heart) are technically not offal, a term usually reserved for entrails and internal organs, they often get grouped into the same category of “generally off-putting.” The challenge with tongue, unlike something like kidney, is not so much in its taste (it tastes like, well, beef). The hurdle is more psychological, probably stemming from the fact that our own tongues are so involved in the chewing of food, and the thought of biting into tongue evokes something of a visceral response. If you can overcome the mental barrier though, you’ll have a deliciously tender cut of beef awaiting you on the other side. It’s a bit like brisket actually.
Beef tongue has this incredible outer “skin” on it. I once had the honor of being licked by a cow (imagine being licked by a cat… now multiply that times cow) and at the time I was surprised. I’m not surprised now; look at the SPIKES on that thing!
Almost all tongue recipes start with a long slow simmer in water or stock with some vegetables and aromatics. Once tender, the skin should nearly lift off the tongue in one satisfying pull.
From there you can finish the tongue with whatever sauce or preparation you like. Tacos de Lengua are popular, or you could pick a fresh tomato sauce, or a wine based sauce. [UPDATE: check out the following post for a delicious tongue slider idea].
Here, we sliced the tongue and seared the slices in a hot pan to brown them before serving with a creamy horseradish mustard sauce (don’t forget to prepare your own horseradish!) . The searing step actually goes a long way towards helping overcome the psychological hurdle of eating tongue. If you still need convincing, consider that tongue is one of the cheapest cuts of beef you can buy.
Beef Tongue with Horseradish Sauce
- 1 (2 lb) fresh beef tongue
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 whole star anise
- 2 whole cloves
- ½ tsp black peppercorns
- 1½ Tbsp salt
- 2 Tbsp peanut oil, suet, or extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup chopped shallot
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup cream
- 1 cup stock or reserved cooking liquid from tongue
- 2 Tbsp whole-grain mustard
- ½ – 2 Tbsp prepared horseradish
- 2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
- 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- ½ tsp fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 300˚F. To cook the tongue, rinse it well with cold water and place in a large oven-safe pot or dutch oven. Add water to cover by a couple inches and then add the remaining spices and aromatics. The spices listed here are a guide, but feel free to mix it up. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then place the pot in the oven for about 3 hours, until the tongue is very tender. This can all be done in a slow cooker as well, if you desire.
When tongue is tender, let it cool uncovered in it’s cooking liquid until cool enough to handle (now’s a fine time to make the sauce). If you’re in a hurry, you can take the tongue out of the liquid to speed the process. Reserve some of the cooking liquid for the sauce, or you can simply use stock, or even milk.
For the sauce, heat the cream together with reserved cooking liquid or stock in a small pan, keep covered at a very low simmer. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Add the shallots and cook gradually, stirring, until softened. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking briskly for about 1 to 2 minutes, until blonde. Then, gradually whisk in the pre-heated liquid, whisking constantly so as to avoid lumps (preheating the liquid also helps to prevent the sauce from seizing and creating lumps). Bring to a boil whisking. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue whisking for a couple minutes until slightly thickened. Stir in the mustard, horseradish, parsley, dill, and lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Depending on how strong your horseradish is, you may need anywhere from ½ to 2 tablespoons. Add a small amount at first and then adjust to taste once all the ingredients are in. Keep covered on the stove on very low heat.
Peel off the skin (ahhhh) and trim away any remaining nastiness. Slice the tongue into ½-inch thick slices on a slight bias. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add just enough oil to create a thin film. Add the tongue slices, being careful not to overcrowd the pan, and fry for a few minutes, until nicely browned. Turn the slices and brown the other side for a couple minutes as well.
When done, fan the tongue slices out on a plate and drizzle with sauce. Garnish with parsley and serve. Then, admit that it’s really quite tasty.