Due to the kindness of friends and strangers, and their love of giving me trash bags of offal, I have a lot of interesting meats in my freezer. Tongue, from several different animals, is available in abundance in the freezer. While I’ve found some good uses for lamb, pork, and goats tongues due to their small size and tender meat, I had yet to cook a beef tongue dish that I truly enjoyed. I’ve stewed it (for too short) and grilled it, but I haven’t made a dish that had the tender texture that tongue is prized for.
I decided to change all of that a couple weekends ago and brought a tongue up from the freezer to thaw. Not just any tongue either, this one was from Uncle Billy’s Crazy Cooler of Destiny, which I had in a vacuum-sealed freeze for about a year. As I’ve referenced before, since this was a grass fed cow that was butchered in a non-commercial setting, the cuts were in a more, um, natural state. As in I still needed to rinse some grass off the tongue once it had thawed.
I followed the same standard process for preparing beef tongue with this one even though it was a little different than any you would find in a store. The tongue went into a pot of boiling water for 90 minutes to loosen the hard outer skin from the meat so it could be easily peeled. As usual, I boiled it for the recommended amount of time, briefly rinsed it in cold water, and cursed the stupid internet as I burned my fingers unsuccessfully peeling. Then, eventually, easily peeled it once it got started (like a stubborn orange made of skin and shaped like a tongue).
To expound on what made this tongue different while you are staring at that unappetizing photo, it’s because unlike a store-bought tongue, this one included the “stump”. That area required some trimming of fat and unsightly pieces before boiling, but still has some decent meat so I left it intact. If you’ve ever looked at the underside of your tongue in a mirror, I’m sure you can guess how questionable that stump looked when this all started.
Anyhoo, with the tongue ready for further cooking, I heated up a few tablespoons of bacon grease in Lil’ Blue over medium heat and started browning the outside of the tongue.
Once browned on all sides (including some awkward balancing on the back of the tongue), I removed it from the pot and reduced the heat on the burner. While it cooled a bit, I chopped carrots, onion, celery, and garlic in the food processor and dumped it directly into the pot to cook down for a few minutes.
Once some of the liquid had cooked out of the veggies, I stirred in a few tablespoons of tomato paste, a little crushed red pepper, salt, and a handful of currants. The currants were mostly to add some sweetness without using sugar and, as previously mentioned, Kristi bought a comedically large container of them a month ago. Every day that passes with them in the cabinet stresses me out more.
After a little stirring, the tomato paste had well coated the other ingredients and I added a bottle of red wine to form the base for the braise. While I waited for the liquid to reduce a bit, I preheated the oven to 300F and seized the opportunity for a little window-side photo shoot.
The browned tongue still looked a little funky, but smelled like roast beef with a little bacon aroma thrown in for good measure. The tongue went back into the reduced braising liquid along with a few spoonfuls of liquid over the top.
The lid went back onto ‘Lil Blue and it headed into the oven for three hours of braising. I’d like to say I paced the house the whole time, but I think we actually got outside and away from the kitchen so I wouldn’t obsess over it the whole time.
When we returned home, Kristi said something along the lines of, “I am disgusted by how good that smells since I know what it is”. Which, I guess, is a good sign? I thought yes, so I pulled the pot out of the oven to see what we had.
The meat was extremely tender to the point that I was concerned it would fall apart when I removed it from the pot. Which is what I was hoping for after my previous chewy experiences cooking tongue.
With plans to use everything in the pot, I removed the tongue carefully with a couple large spoons and transferred it to a separate dish. Once the tongue and pot had cooled enough to touch, they both headed into the fridge to chill completely. After a few hours, the tongue had firmed enough that it would be easy to slice without the meat falling apart, and the excess fat in the braising liquid had hardened for easy skimming.
Once skimmed, the liquid went back on the stove top to come back up to temperature.
While the sauce simmered, I started the grill and began slicing the tongue into pieces that would work well as a pizza topping. See, it wasn’t just a falsely titled post, it just took a while to get there! Hope you’ve enjoyed the ride!
The part of the tongue between the stump and the end sliced in perfect sized rounds.
The remainder of the tongue I sliced over the following few days for a couple tongue sandwiches which were friggin’ delicious. Even on stupid, evil sandwich thins.
When cold and in between two slices of (stupid diet) bread, the braised tongue can be enjoyed in all of its glory. It was a combination of the flavor of rich pot roast with the texture of firm liverwurst in a sandwich. So tasty, but no one else will think that sounds delicious. Except, maybe, this one person I know…
Janet had her fair share of slices over the following few days, but my favorite moment was when our friend’s son Griffin took a piece out of her hand while we were visiting in LBI for the 4th. He ate it in two bites while his mother Liz turned away in horror trying to avoid vomiting while saying through muffling hands, “It’s fine, it’s fine, he can eat it if he wants to.” I am a great houseguest!
With the grill up to 550F and all of the ingredients prepped, I stretched out half of a pizza dough and brushed it thoroughly with olive oil. Then straight onto the grill oiled side down.
I have discussed my love for grilled pizza previously, but that love hasn’t faded. It is the only way to get crispy, bubbly, and chewy dough cooking at home due to how much heat comes off the grill. Here it is after about a minute and a half.
The raw side gets another brush of olive oil then the whole thing gets flipped so the grilled side can be topped.
The crispy side was spread with the braising liquid, the tongue rounds, and a couple handfuls of parmesan and shredded mozzarella. Then a couple dollops of additional sauce for good measure and back onto the grill with the boring pesto, tomato and cheese pizza Kristi made me make as well.
After another few minutes on the grill with the lid closed, I burned my hands the usual extensive amount transferring the pizza back to a cookie sheet to bring inside. A quick foto of the brief resting period so the cheese wouldn’t all slide off when I cut it.
As usual with the half dough pizzas, each was cut into eight, 5-6 bite rectangles. The point of cutting to that size is so I don’t know how much I’ve eaten and no one else can really tell whether I am eating a lot either. Strategy!
Luckily the beef tongue was tender and easy to cut unlike pepperoni, prosciutto and other toppings I have struggled to slice through previously.
The pizza was very tasty. Because the sauce was a reduced and concentrated blend of sofrito, red wine, tomato paste, and juice/fat from the beef, it had a ton of flavor. It was very rich and pretty delicious. The only mistake was the extra dollops of sauce since a little bit went a long way and I wanted it to compliment the tongue instead of challenge it. As it was with the extra sauce, the flavor of the tongue was overpowered a little bit, but overall it still tasted how I hoped: pot roast pizza. Next time around I would likely use slightly less sauce, use some shaved gruyere as the cheese, and integrate some caramelized onions. Only reason I passed on the onions this time around is because they play a prominent role in my braised short rib pizza which would have been nearly identical to this.
Once again, I promise to right this ship. For serious this time.