Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Boiled ox tongue

I've had an ox-tongue brining away in the fridge for the last two weeks or so. Last night, I pulled it out, boiled it up, and served everything with roast roots, and Brussels sprouts a la Leftover Queen. This is how it went down:

Tiffany: Ooh, wow! It's tender.
Eric: Yes, very. It spent three hours in the pot. Much more flavorful than the tacos de lengua I used to have at El Palenque. The brining really paid off nicely. I wish the horseradish weren't so wimpy.
Tiffany: Um, Eric, what's that stuff there.
Eric: Maybe...veins? I guess that's where the tongue is, I mean was, fastened to the bottom of the mouth. Hmm...
Tiffany: And I think...can you try and get the taste buds off better next time? Or maybe smother things up with gravy?
Eric: I don't know, I "peeled" it just the way the cookbook said. And I don't really have any jus for gravy...I guess I could do the whole roux thing, but that's kind of a pain.
Tiffany: The tastebuds are kind of nasty looking.
Eric: But not without a certain irony...
Tiffany: It's great, but I don't know if we should serve it at any dinner parties.
Eric: Yeah. I think it will work nicely in the ravioli this Wednesday.

Read on for the rest of the story.

Boiled Ox Tongue

What's Guerrilla: At $4/pound, tongue is not the least expensive beef at the butcher's. But considering it's tenderness and ability to sneak chameleon-like into a variety of dishes, it's a great deal.
What's Gourmet: Tongue is velvety tender and, after a few weeks in brine, very flavorful.

One ox tongue, brined. They're about three or four pounds each. I got mine here.
An onion, cut through the middle. No need to peel it here.
A few hearts of celery.
A head of garlic, unpeeled.
A few carrots. (Again, no need for the peeler, just give them a good scrub.)
A bundle of herbs. (I tied up some sprigs of thyme, a few bay leaves, some parsley stems, and the leavy tops of the celery.
A pinch of whole cloves and peppercorns. Stud them into the flesh of your halved onions.
I didn't use any the first time I made this, but I'm sure a leek or two would be lovely.

Cut your stock vegetables in half, the better to fit in the pot. Nestle tongue, vegetables, and bundled herbs snugly together, cover with water, and bring to a merry boil. Reduce the water to a whispering simmer, and let the tongue get acquainted with it's new friends. After about three hours, spear with a thin, sharp knife. If it's tender and giving, pull the tongue out and rinse under cool water until you can just handle it without scalding yourself. (The outer "skin" won't budge if you let everything go cold.) Starting from the root, "peel" the outer membraney skin off and dispose. Put the tongue aside to rest for a moment before slicing. Serve with the British duo of horseradish and green sauce, or the French trinity of sea salt, mustard, and cornichons.

A note: When all is done, you're left with some spent vegetables and a decent, tasty broth. I really should have saved or served it, but Tiffany and I already had plenty of food for the evening and the freezer is getting a bit crowded.