I grew up in a household where my parents served us beef tongue, as I’ve mentioned in the past. Mother was the one who usually cooked it, and she wasn’t the parent noted for going “strange” in the diet, so tongue was normal and not adventurous. Dare I say it — it was (and still is) Comfort Food! Yes, more so than mac and cheese. Yes, seriously.
While the tongue Mom would make had its antecedents in the Pennsylvanian/Kentuckian regions of this country, and her recipe definitely had roots in her Germanic background, our family moving to New York City also promoted tongue in our diet. Jewish delis in the city featured tongue, and so it was easy for my parents to procure, and cook it for themselves. And being offal, the price was extremely affordable at that time. (There are only a few Jewish delis left in NYC that have it on their menu — I consider those places to be VALID Jewish delis. The others — I simply suspect they are impostors… Or maybe they’ve bowed to the signs of the times…)
And, if you want to think about it, this food that most folks I know today would shrink from — back at the turn of the (previous) century, bison were slaughtered for a variety of oft-nefarious reasons in the far West – but one of the few culinary reasons for the slaughter was for the tongue, which was shipped east for food. Unfortunately, much of the rest of the meat would usually be left to rot, and would be a reason Native peoples often starved. (The Indians/Natives of the Great Plains appreciated the nutrient density of organ meat over regular muscle meat, by the way. Tongue, heart and liver — they typically ate these organs first when they had the option.)
Back when I was growing up, tongue was usually bought/found smoked, but that’s somewhat harder to find these days, and I’m content with it smoked or not smoked today. Today, I get my beef tongue from local farmers, and I seriously love it. I have to say, it is one of my favorite cuts of beef. Tongue. Let’s see, what else: A good brisket, slow cooked with veggies (added later on) for 10-11 hours on low. A good rib-eye, grilled rare. Flank steak, seared medium rare. Skirt steak, done Mexican or Tex-Mex. Tongue, crock-potted with vinegar or pickle juice, and clove-based seasonings. There we go. Comfort!
Tongue Lettuce Wraps
Prep Time: Maybe 10 minutes to set up the tongue, already cooked; 20 minutes to roll up the wraps.
Cook Time: Tongue will take 4-4.5 hours in a slow cooker set on low.
Rest Time: About 20 min. Allow to chill so that the lettuce doesn’t get soggy from the heat.
Serves: As an appetizer, plan on two wraps per person. Unfortunately, there will be some folk who won’t touch these! (Their loss.)
Leftovers?: Possibly, refrigerate up to a day – otherwise the lettuce will get limp anyway.
- 1 cooked tongue (you won’t need all of it for this recipe; reserve 1/4th pound, skinned.
- lettuce leaves — choose a lettuce that has a solid leaf that you can use as a wrap. Iceberg works, but so does butter lettuce, Boston, or Romaine. There may well be others. Some lettuces will remain crispy longer than others.
- Mustard: Dijon, Kosciusko, or horseradish mustard. To taste.
- soft goat cheese.
(Cook the tongue — I prefer the crock pot these days, and I cook it on high for 4 – 4.5 hours, but if you are doing it while at work or something, do it for 8-9 hours on low. Have seasonings and vinegar in with the water in the crock pot – ideally, use leftover dill pickle juice. It imparts a great flavor.)
Remove tongue from crock pot and allow to cool for 20 – 30 minutes, then remove skin from the tongue. If you wait until the tongue is room temperature, the skin will be harder to remove. Basically, wait for it to be just cool enough that you can manipulate it without burning yourself. Discard skin.
Slice thin, and reserve a center portion for the upcoming recipe. I like slicing it to about 1/4 inch segments. While any of the meat will work, I tend to go for a center portion of the tongue because I find its flavor and texture to be the most optimal here.
Enjoy! The contrasting flavors will complement each other.