We get our beef from a local provider that raises grass-fed cows in a humane environment. The owners of these cows also happen to be nuns, so yeah. Basically if you think you eat any more smugly justified beef, you're kidding yourself, unless the cows that were killed to make YOUR burgers lived their lives being hand-fed by the angels themselves, in which case, can I come to your barbecue? Actually, I would love to come to your barbecue no matter where you get your meat from because yum. Barbecue.
Anyhow, the last time we placed our order, I womaned up and asked for the "extras" - the organ meats. Without sounding too self-righteous about it, I feel like if I'm going to have this animal killed for my food, it's more respectful to use as much of it as I can. I've learned a lot about how to cook different cuts of meat, and so it was time to move onto organ meats.
In case you're wondering, heart is pretty good. It has a slightly firmer texture than, say, stew meat, but the flavor is pretty much the same. I'm not admitting here that I snuck some heart meat into a random beef stew, but if I HAD, I can tell you that my children wouldn't even have noticed. Liver is...well, liver is liver. I tried making pate' and it...is liver. Not my favorite, and no one else will touch it.
And that left the tongue. We're getting to the end of this batch of meat (new shipment coming at the end of March) and so I decided it was time to tackle the tongue, as it were.
I went online, to troll the recipes and comments, just as Julia Childs did when faced with a new cut of meat. A thousand tongue recipes assured me it was DELICIOUS and EASY and just needed proper cooking. I can do this! I thought. I made my plan of attack. All the recipes recommended cooking it in simmering water for a good long time to tenderize it (except one rogue commenter who claimed to have slow-roasted it for hours, until it was meltingly tender, the madcap FOOL), so simmering it was. Here I hit my first decision. Half the recipes called for tossing all manner of aromatics in the water. Onions! Garlic! Peppercorns! Bay leaves! The other half of the recipes said meh, don't bother, it doesn't affect the flavor of the meat at all. Now, "don't bother" is directly in line with my desire to not be bothered, and so that's what I opted for. I did not bother.
So I thawed the tongue and unwrapped it, ready to lick this dish. As it were. And I met my first obstacle. Because the idea of eating tongue sounds...off putting. But when you're looking at the tongue? It LOOKS LIKE A TONGUE. Like a great big black and white tongue, bobbing away in your pot. With taste buds. Urk. But okay. Pushing ahead. I scrubbed it, put it in the only pot I own that is large enough for a great big cow tongue, and set it to simmer.
And then I learned my first important tongue lesson. The aromatics? They are there, not for the benefit of the meat. They are for you. Because simmering tongue smells...funky. Quite funky. For the rest of the day I kept throwing fistfulls of stuff in the water every time I passed. Here, have some garlic! Have some bay leaves! Dear God in heaven, peppercorns?
After some five hours of simmering, it was time to move onto the next step, peeling it. Peeling the...um...taste buds. I pulled it out of the broth and ran cool water over it. Time to peel it. Yeah. This would be where the major misgivings hit. The taste buds, man. They were RIGHT THERE.
But I am a STALWART and POWERFUL woman, because I pressed on (also, I had told everyone we were having tongue for dinner, and maybe mocked a few who looked unenthused at the prospect). And in the process, with my sleeves shoved up to my elbows, and the special funky scent of simmering tongue all around me, I gripped the slippery tongue skin and peeled. And realized that I did not, at all, in any way, want to eat this dang thing.
To make matters worse, it turned out that the tongue wasn't quite cooked. Dinner was nigh, and it was still too tough. I tossed it back in the pot to cook some more and scrambled to make something else. The kids have never been so happy to see tacos in their lives.
But today was time to finally face the tongue. As it were. I heated it up, then shredded it. And I discovered that SOME tongue meat is just plain meat textured. However, SOME tongue meat is...not. It's sort of soft and spongy, although some of the blame for that could be my cooking "technique." I sauteed the meat with taco seasoning, and turned it into a topping for nachos. And I invited my parents for dinner, too.
Everyone was very gracious about the meal, but I did notice that I asked them three times what they thought about it, and have yet to get a single response. However, when most of it was eaten, the jokes began. Max took a shred of meat and walked around, "licking" his brothers with it.
"MAX," I said, "please hold your tongue."
"Mom," Tre said, "that was tasteless."
"I think you really licked this meal," my dad offered.
"Everyone's being so tongue in cheek, I don't know what to think," I said.
By this point Raphael was threatening to spend the evening in his room, just to avoid the puns.
And I am done with this particular cut of meat. We'll be getting another tongue with the next batch of beef, but I'm thinking I'll pass it along to a friend. Maybe she'll have better luck with it than I did. My only real problem now is this: can I resist asking her to meet up with me so I can slip her some tongue? Because that would really be tasteless.