Offal lovers like me are, for the most part, lonely people. I generally eat stuff like tripe (cf. menudo … yum!), lambs’ heads, sweetbreads, etc. in solitary, or, to the disapproving looks of my family and friends. Tongue, on the other hand, is a bit of offal that my wife actually likes … even adores. Just the other day, at Stater Brothers, of all places, we spied a fresh beef tongue lying on top of the meat counter, and, of course, bought it immediately.
How do you cook a tongue, you may well ask, if you’re not already completely turned off by the topic? Well, the first thing you have to do is peel off the heavy pale skin that covers most of it. This you do by boiling the whole tongue vigorously in a standard court-bouillon. You don’t have to employ anything but a lot of water and the usual c-b enhancements – celery, carrots, onion, pepper corns, bay leaves, parsley – and boil the tongue therein vigorously for 45 minutes per pound … no less. I’ve heard that you can shorten this process by using a pressure cooker, but I’ve yet to try it out. When the tongue is on the point of finishing up, have a large bowl of ice water at hand, and immediately plunge the hot tongue into the water. This really important step will allow you to peel off the skin very quickly. I owe this trick to the chef, Susan Feniger, who told me about it at a Los Angeles restaurant show long ago … one of the best cooking tips I ever received.
Once the peeled tongue has cooled, wrap it tightly in foil and refrigerate it while you decide how you want to serve it. You could slice it up immediately, I suppose, if you’re looking to make, say, lengua tacos, but I recommend roasting the peeled tongue for added flavor prior to any further use. You can do this any time, serve it hot right then and there, or stick it back in the refrigerator. My wife likes to put in a glass roasting dish, with a little water in the bottom of that dish, spread some catsup liberally over all, top with a few slices of brown onion, cover with foil and roast at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover the tongue and roast for an additional 15 minutes. At that point, you can slice it and serve it hot immediately, or chill it for later use.
I like to eat the roasted tongue cold, rinsing off the catsup and then slicing the meat thin. Have ready a platter scattered with chopped crisp greens, and thin cucumber and tomato slices. Arrange the slices of tongue on top, and then drizzle liberally the tongue and greens with a garlic vinaigrette made with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, chopped parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. I was inspired to make this dish by something like it that, while still a college undergraduate, I used to eat at Chino’s famous Basque restaurant, Centro Basco. It’s still there. By the way, lambs’ tongues (try Super King) are also wonderful to prepare the same way and serve … another Feniger innovation.