It's a funny thing about beef tongue - it really looks like tongue, complete with taste buds. It is also very large, again not terribly surprising but still a lot to wrap your head around. As Mr. said, "You know that a year ago we were vegetarians and now you have a beef tongue in the sink." Of course I used the innocent brown eyes tinged with a bit of indignation, of course I have a beef tongue in the sink! Of course I'm going to eat it! Of course it freaks me out because it kind of feels like pinching my own tongue in a very over-sized sort of way but I was determined to do it. As much as my hubby loves me and no matter how adventurous he may be, Mr. made himself a vegetarian taco that night.
This hasn't been the greatest lead up to dinner. What you may not know is that beef tongue is incredibly tender with a very subtle beef flavour that easily soaks up flavour. For the quantity of meat you can get out of the tongue it is very economical. I know a lot of people use the meat in sandwiches and I can see why, the tender slices are a nitrate-free, natural alternative to lunch meat. To be honest, the reason I made tacos was to disguise some of the more "tongue-like" features and I would highly suggest it. There is a reason why mothers never tell their kids what it is until after it has been eaten, it's tasty but can give you a bit of a shaky knee reaction.
I am still torn about the experience. I enjoyed preparing and eating this dish. It was undeniably delicious and to think that such a large portion of meat was not carelessly thrown away is reassuring when so many people are quick to throw away, particularly in light of the offal movement. I gave up being a vegetarian because of something a friend said to Mr. and I: "You're proud of your vegetarian for ethical reasons but is it environmentally friendly? You got your protein from imported almonds or whatever but it's not from here. My meat from down the hall from a fellow farmer. I traded him vegetables for it." We were standing in the farmer's market when we ran into Ted, the lanky farmer from whom we bought our vegetables and he made a valid point. We meekly stated that our tofu was local but was it enough? As much as we enjoyed our vegetarianism in some respects we had an uneasy relationship with it. So much was imported, shipped in from dots on the map. We slowly started incorporating meat from local producers, people we knew and had worked alongside at the market. We knew the farmers, their ethics and views on how to properly raise animals without the use of antibiotics, growth hormones and anything funky. I do not fault anyone for being a vegetarian, how could I? I do believe that we need to think about where our food comes from and what we do with it, eat natural foods in their whole state (despite my ravenous sweet tooth) and just start thinking about our impact on the world.
A note: We have a policy of full-disclosure with our children (kidded down of course), so after pretending to lick Miss N's face with the cooked beef tongue and explaining what it was, the kids still ate it. In fact, Bubs had seconds.
one beef tongue
one onion, diced
250 mL red wine
2 overly ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
1. Boil the beef tongue in water for about 3 hours.*
2. Once you are able to handle it, you will have to peel the skin off of it. I made an incision down the centre of tongue then using a paring knife peel it kind of like a apple. The skin will peel off fairly easily but it does take some encouraging. Reserve.
3. Heat olive oil on medium heat until it slips easily across the bottom of a high-sided frying pan. Add the onion, cook until translucent.
4. Dice the tongue and add to the pan. Lightly sear and add the wine. Keep the temperature high for just a few minutes to burn off the alcohol.
5. Add the tomatoes, garlic, cover and allow to reduce on low heat.
6. Add the cumin, salt and pepper. All of this is to taste.
7. Serve with ribbons of spinach (instead of iceberg lettuce!), diced tomatoes, grated cheese and any other favourite taco toppings. Enjoy!