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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Finding Flavor in Lengua

Food 13I’m a heavy user of idioms, but not a lover of them. Suffering from a regular inability to produce words to express thoughts, there is ease, but little comfort, to using someone else’s to fill in the blanks. What kind of comfort is there really to the words “you are what you eat?” Are we really easily transformed in our genetic make up by what we consume? Do we begin to look like our food? Do we act like it? If so, I am frequently a Pacific coast mollusk, an oyster, or a clam–a strange enough thing for someone with a deep dislike of being submerged in water … By my diet, I am hard on the outside, difficult to pry open, but once opened, yielding a soft, pliable and decidedly salty interior.


On second thought, maybe I am what I eat. Logic, something that along with words frequently fails me, dictates that I am indeed not a mollusk, rather, I am subconsciously driven to supply my body with what it requires to function, the way every human body has functioned since the beginning of human time. My daily cravings for mollusks of various kinds are likely an indicator of a deficiency in vitamin B12, iodine and phosphorus–nutrients they supply in abundance.


Other days my cravings are for deep bowls of steaming broth, rich in collagen and protein, the kind of broth that turns into a clear gelatinous when cold. A food made out of bones and joints is the kind of nutrition a body made of aching bones and joints needs. But what do you eat for being chronicly tongue tied? To relieve months of thinking nothing beyond “I have no words?” To ease the tension keeping the brain and lips so much further away from each other than the mere inches that separate them? Maybe I can find my words again at the tip of a cow’s tongue, after recovering from my shocked silence at the ever-increasing cost of this now trendy offal.



Beef Tongue with Jus and Lentils


Brining and resting the beef tongue over a 3 day process may seem excessive, but is well worth the effort for the moist results. The beef feet bones during the cooking process are optional, but give the resulting broth a body and thickness that it would otherwise lack due to the low collagen content of beef tongue.


For the brine


1 beef tongue, about 3 to 4 pounds

1 quart water

¼ cup kosher salt

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered

1 carrot, peeled and quartered

2 ribs celery, quartered

1 head garlic, cut in half, outer paper removed

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon black peppercorn

½ teaspoon coriander seed

½ teaspoon dry thyme

½ teaspoon dry marjoram

2 chile de árbol pods


Place water, salt, sugar and spices in a saucepot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir to ensure the salt and sugar have dissolved. Cool completely. In a plastic, ceramic or glass container, place the beef tongue and remaining ingredients, allowing enough space to pour the cooled brine over them. Allow the beef tongue to brine, refrigerated, for 36 to 48 hours.


When ready to remove from the brine, rinse lightly with cold water, removing any spices that may be attached. Pat dry, and place in a dry container, refrigerating for an additional 12 to 18 hours. This allows for the salt and moisture introduced to the protein to evenly throughout the protein.



To cook the beef tongue


1 brined beef tongue

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered

1 carrot, peeled and quartered

2 celery ribs, quartered

1 ½ – 2 pounds beef feet

Cold water, enough to cover by 1 to 2 inches


For the pan jus


½ cup minced yellow onion

¼ brandy or cognac

¼ cup raisins


If choosing to not brine the beef tongue, use the spices of the brine recipe during the cooking process, with the addition of one teaspoon of kosher salt to the cooking liquid. Beef tongue and beans are the only two things I use a slow cooker for, and feel no need to ever cook by a different method, but to each their own.


If using a slow cooker, place all ingredients in the pot, turn to high, and leave alone till the tongue is tender. If cooking by a traditional method, place all ingredients in a stockpot, making sure the tongue is sufficiently covered with cold water. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a gentle simmer. Skim the surface of the liquid as necessary. Cook for 3 hours or so, or until the tongue is fork tender.


Remove the pot from the heat, and gently lift the tongue out of the cooking liquid. In a small saucepot, heat a thin layer of canola oil on medium high heat. Add the minced onion, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until caramelized. Turn heat to high for 1 minute, and deglaze pan with the cognac or brandy. Reduce by half. Place a fine mesh strainer over the pot, and pour the tongue cooking liquid through, discarding the bones and aromatics. Reduce this liquid over medium high heat, until 1/4th of its original volume, adding the raisins when the liquid is nearly reduced.


When the tongue is cool enough to handle, with a sharp knife, score a line down the length of it, to ease the removal of the outer membrane. This is easier to do while the tongue is slightly warm. Slice into 1/4″ slices, cutting across the grain. Add to the reduced jus, and drop the heat to a very gentle simmer, heating only as long as necessary.


For the lentils and salad


1 cup brown lentils

1 1/2 cold water

1/2 cup minced yellow onion

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


1 fennel bulb, stems intact

3-4 Easter egg radishes

1/4 cup picked cilantro

1/4 cup picked flat leaf parsley

1 large lime

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


Cut the stems off the fennel bulb, reserving the more delicate fronds, picking them off the stem. Slice the stems thinly, yielding ideally 1/2 a cup. In a small saucepot, heat a small amount of canola oil. Add the minced onion and sliced fennel stems. Cook until they are translucent. Rinse the lentils, removing any debris. Add the lentils and cold water, cooking over medium heat until the lentils just begin to burst. Add the salt and pepper, stirring to incorporate.


Trim the bottom of the fennel bulb, and with a paring knife, carefully remove the core, cutting in a circular motion. Thinly slice the fennel into rings, preferably with a mandolin. Thinly slice the radish into rounds. Mix the fennel, radish, and picked herbs, dressing them with lime juice, olive oil, and seasoning with sea salt and pepper to taste.


Place the hot beef tongue, with some of the pan just and raisins, on a plate, adding a generous spoonful of lentils. Top with the salad. Lentils and tongue both benefit greatly from the heat and vinegar of mustard. Garnish if desired with a strong whole grain mustard. Pair with cognac, or a Scotch ale.

















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