A century ago, when consumers were still indoctrinated with the traditional attitude that every part of an animal must be used, offal and specialty meats were widely popular. Their popularity and availability dwindled throughout the 20th Century, but the broadening of cross-cultural culinary horizons has revived interest in meats like kidney, tripe and tongue. Cold tongue was a staple for sandwich making and the cold buffet table, and is easily prepared at home.
Rinse the tongue under cold running water and place it in the saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover and salt lightly. If you are using the tongue in a specific recipe, season the cooking liquid as directed in the recipe.
Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring it up to just below boiling temperature. Simmer the tongue gently until tender, approximately three to four hours depending on size.
Remove the tongue from the saucepan with tongs or a carving fork and allow it to cool until it may be handled comfortably. Use the tip of a sharp knife to score the skin of the tongue, dividing it into two or more pieces.
Place the tongue on a cutting board and slide the tip of the knife under the skin at the tip of the tongue, until you have loosened a large enough portion onto which you can get a grip. Grasp the skin firmly between thumb and forefinger, using a clean cloth, if desired, for better grip. Pull back on the skin, peeling it from the tongue. It should come easily, with only moderate force.
Repeat for the rest of the skin. Turn the tongue so you can see the thicker portion at the base. There will be several pieces of gristle there, which will be plainly visible. Remove these as well, with the knife. The tongue is now ready for use or may be wrapped and refrigerated.
The same procedure may be followed for smoked or salted tongue, as well as for fresh tongue. Beef broth may be used instead of water as the cooking liquid for better flavor. Some recipes also call for wine and spices. Cooling the tongue in the cooking liquid will give more flavor. Some recipes use the cooking liquid to make a sauce for the tongue.
As with any fresh meat, keep tongue refrigerated until it is cooked. Once it is cooked, either use it immediately or store it in the refrigerator or freezer. Clean and sanitize any surfaces that have been in contact with raw meat.
- "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Revised Second Edition"; Harold S. McGee; 2004
- "Professional Cooking, 5th Ed."; Wayne Gisslen; 2003
- "The American Woman's Cookbook, Wartime Edition;" Ruth Berolzheimer (ed.); 1944
Fred Decker is a trained chef, former restaurateur and prolific freelance writer, with a special interest in all things related to food and nutrition. His work has appeared online on major sites including Livestrong.com, WorkingMother.com and the websites of the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle; and offline in Canada's Foodservice & Hospitality magazine and his local daily newspaper. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.