I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates’, food, for me, has always been an adventure. (Anthony Bourdain)
There’s a back story to this post.
Back in June of this year, my lovely blogging buddy, Petra from over at Petra8Paleo posted about how she mistakenly bought some bison tongue (thinking it was heart) and totally wimped out about cooking it because, well – if you’ve ever cooked a tongue, there’s just no escaping the reality of what it is. It looks like a ginormous tongue. It was too much for Petra.
It reminded me of how my Mum used to prepare pressed tongue for us, when we were little. Actually – it was probably mainly for my Dad. He is a big fan of things offal and secondary cuts.
I determined that it was about time I gave preparing tongue it a go myself…
I can tie a cherry stem into a knot with my tongue. Now, if only I could do the same with my shoelaces, I wouldn’t have to banana pudding my way to success. (Jarod Kintz, This Book Has No Title)
Now, tongue is still technically a muscle meat, so it has a nutritional profile that is similar to that of other beef muscle meats. It’s a good source of iron, zinc, choline, vitamin B12, other B vitamins, and trace minerals. It’s also a pretty fatty cut of meat, which means it is just about one of the most tender cuts of beef you can find. SUPER tender, in fact.
It’s actually a really easy cut of meat to cook – just a wee bit time-consuming (like many good things!), and it lends itself to many accompanying flavours. And, it’s a very budget friendly cut, too.
The bigger challenge, it turns out, is sourcing happy tongue here in Sydney. That is – tongue from a pasture raised animal with no added hormones or antibiotics, not to mention grains.
Here in Australia, it is relatively easy to source happy meat. There is a growing awareness that we eat whatever what we eat, eats… But, unfortunately offal is more of a challenge. While premium cuts of meat are separated into grass-fed versus ‘standard raised and supplemented’ as a matter of course at the abattoir, the same cannot be said for offal. In the case of beef and pork, it is all mixed together (pretty much all lamb is pasture raised). There is not yet enough of a market to justify keeping the grass-fed offal separate for retail sales. Here’s hoping that will start to change. Soon!
I sourced my lovely ox tongue from the good peeps at Feather and Bone. If you don’t happen to have a local farmer as your best friend, here in Syders, they are the next best thing because they buy whole animals and break them down, rather than using an abattoir. But, don’t think that means there are spare tongues waiting to be snapped up – they are hard to come by!
Any-who, once I had my ox tongue in my hot little hands, I needed to work out the best way to cook it, not to mention serve it. It seems to be universally accepted that the only way to cook tongue is long and slow – you want a meltingly tender result, not one that’s tough-as-old-boots!
I have been itching to try out a recipe or two from Fergus Henderson’s GORGEOUS ‘The Complete Nose to Tail’ for quite some time. If you haven’t got a copy in your house, it’s worth acquiring it just for the delightful way he writes. He makes me want to experiment with food. Here’s an example:
Do not be afraid of cooking, as your ingredients will know, and misbehave. Enjoy your cooking and the food will behave; moreover it will pass your pleasure on to those who eat it. (Fergus Henderson, The Complete Nose to Tail)
The thing is, it was my first time preparing tongue. And after all the effort I went to in sourcing it, I didn’t want to screw it up. So, I also checked in with the Australian oracle of cookery, she who knows EVERYTHING, Stephanie Alexander.
Both Stephanie and Fergus agree that a pickled or brined tongue is preferable. While it is possible to cook ‘fresh’ tongue, it will apparently be a less appealing grey-brown colour. Often your butcher will sell tongue already pickled. Mine wasn’t. Fergus suggests brining your tongue for 7 days. Stephanie says 2 is enough (although up to a week is fine). I went with Stephanie’s two days! I was ready to cook my tongue!
I prepared a simple green caper sauce for my first tongue meal. And, I received the LM seal of approval. He later confessed to being a little nervous about eating tongue, until he worked out that it really is just a muscle. And of course, it tastes fabulous.
Next time around I’m going to press my tongue… Watch this space!
SUPER SIMPLE Ox Tongue with Green Caper Sauce
If brining your tongue, you will need to start this recipe at least two days ahead.
For the brine*:
2 x litres water
200g coconut sugar
300g sea salt
1 x bay leaf
1 x sprig thyme
1/2 teaspoon juniper berries
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon all spice
1/4 teaspoon mace
3 x cloves
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
For the tongue:
1 x ox tongue
2 x carrots
2 x leeks
2 x onions
1 x bay leaf
1 x sprig of thyme
2 x Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
For the Green Caper Sauce:
1/2 x cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 x bunches fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup capers, chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Himalayan sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper (optional, leave out if on the autoimmune protocol)
1. Pop all your spices into a piece of muslin or a spice bag and tie firmly. Heat your water, coconut sugar and salt together in a large non-reactive pot (I used stainless steel) until your sugar and salt have dissolved. Bring to the boil. Drop in your spice bag and turn off the heat.
2. Cool the brine completely. Transfer to a large glass bowl. Immerse your ox tongue completely in the brine, using weights to ensure it is fully submerged. Pop into your fridge for 2 – 7 days. When ready to cook, rinse and dry the tongue. Discard the brine.
3. Place your tongue in a large pot with the carrots, leeks, onions and herbs. Just cover all the ingredients with filtered water and bring to the gentlest of boils. Immediately lower the temperature to a low simmer and add the apple cider vinegar. Leave for 3 – 3 1/2 hours.
4. While the tongue is slowly cooking, make your green caper sauce by mixing together your EVOO, parsley, capers, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl. Taste for seasoning. Put aside to allow the flavours to marry until your tongue is ready.
5. You will know when your tongue is cooked because the skin will peal away easily. You should also meet with little resistance when you pierce the tongue with a sharp knife. Wait 10 minutes for the tongue to cool before carefully removing the outer skin. It should come away easily.
6. Slice the tongue and serve with the green caper sauce. We served mixed salad greens on the side.
*If you are strict Autoimmune Protocol, eliminate all spices except mace.
E N J O Y !
This recipe featured in the Phoenix Helix AIP Recipe Roundtable.