We love whole animal butchery. It is delicious (most of the time, I’ll admit that I’m not a fan of straight liver, but I enjoy pâtés), it is economical, and it respects the whole animal. One of the biggest hurdles I’ve found to enjoying whole animal butchery is knowing what to do with all the different cuts, especially uncommon cuts like beef tongue.
I’m always fascinated when I watch our cows eat – they don’t have upper teeth, like a horse that can bite the grass down to the ground, so they extend their tongue, wrap it around the grass they want to eat, and then tear it back with their neck and pull in that bunch of up cycled sunshine and chew, and chew, and ruminate, and then chew some more. The tongue is long, covered in a thick, course membrane for grabbing and holding on to that grass without getting a raw, grass-cut tongue, and I’m pretty sure it is the second most used muscle after the heart (can’t find data on that though, so feel free to hit me with the fact checks). It is unlike any other part of the cow and doesn’t offer an intuitive solution to cooking it.
This is one of the many reasons that here at the farm: we love learning how different cultures use ingredients, especially ones that we don’t regularly encounter like beef tongue.
I flew to Las Vegas this weekend to celebrate my late sister’s birthday with my brother Ian. Moira would have been 32 this week – she died 3 years ago from a brain tumor. We all enjoyed cooking and trying new things, and Ian wanted to try cooking beef tongue, and using his new sous-vide for the first time. I did not pack beef tongue in my carry on – I’m pretty sure that would be an epic TSA story – so we visited one of the local Mexican meat markets and picked up some habñero pickled red onions and even spicier guacamole. Ha, I’ve been in Ohio away from proper spice levels for too long.
Because the tongue is such a strong, well used muscle, it needs a lot of cooking time to soften up. We rubbed a little oil on the tongue, added salt and pepper, and an onion, tomato, and cilantro to our vacuum seal bag, and set the sous-vide to 170 degrees. If you don’t have a sous-vide, you can use the more traditional manner of a long braise at low heat on the stove, but it was really nice to set the sous-vide and leave it for a day knowing it would be consistent throughout.
After 26 hours, we pulled the tongue, drained the juices from the bag, set the tongue in an ice bath to shock it and make removing the membrane easier. Once the membrane was removed, we diced the tongue into roughly half inch chunks. When you do this you’ll see how different the muscle structure of the tongue is than a steak or roast cut you’re more used to seeing. We kept the seasoning pretty simple and blended 4 chipotles in adobo sauce, an extra spoonful of the adobo sauce, a splash of lime juice, and a pinch of salt with half of the juices from the sous-vide bag. We put the rest of the juices in a cast iron skillet and sautéed some onion and added the beef tongue chunks and cooked them until they crisped up a little. You can add some of the chipotle sauce to the pan while doing this final cooking, or you can just drizzle it on the tacos.
Add your favorite toppings to your heated tortillas – we had the chipotle sauce, green onions, cilantro, guacamole, habañero pickled red onions, and cotijo cheese. Glorious! (We used street sized flour tortillas, but if you use corn you’ll probably want to use two tortillas per taco because the meat is wet, plus the sauce, and corn doesn’t hold that as well).
Beef Tongue Tacos – Tacos de Lengua
- Sous Vide Set it and forget it option
- Dutch Oven Traditional method, which will require adding water or broth to submerge tongue, and more care in maintaining temperature.
- 1 Beef Tongue Tongues vary in weight, but roughly 1.5-3 pounds
- 2 tbsp Canola or Vegetable Oil Use more or less, depending on size of tongue
- 1 Onion cut into 2-4 chunks
- 1 Tomato cut into 2-4 chunks
- Cilantro 6-8 stems
- 4 Chipotles in Adobo sauce use an extra spoon of the sauce
- Lime Juice from one lime, or a splash to taste
- 1/2 Diced Onion
- All your favorite taco toppings
- Preheat sous-vide to 170. Or, if using dutch oven, preheat water or broth sufficient to cover tongue to roughly 170.
- Rinse tongue, pat dry, rub with oil, salt, and pepper.
- Add tongue, onion chunks, tomato chunks, and cilantro to vacuum bag. If using dutch oven method, add all directly to broth.
- Submerge tongue and cook for 24 hours.
- Remove tongue and reserve juices from the bag.
- Set drained bag in an ice bath for 15 minutes.
- Remove the membrane from the tongue.
- Dice tongue into 1/2 inch chunks.
- Add chipotle peppers and lime to half reserved liquid, blend, and add salt to taste.
- Sauté diced onions in remaining liquid and add tongue. Cook down until the meat begins to crisp up. Feel free to add some of the chipotle sauce to this final cooking, or just add to tacos as you are making them.
- Toast your tortillas.
- Add your favorite taco toppings and fiesta!