Friday, July 16, 2010

"Special" Tacos

Over the weekend we tried something new. I'm talking really new, as in: I never even though of trying this before moving to France, unlike foie gras, escargot, and the like. No, it wasn't until moving here that we realized that cow tongue (yes, you read that right) is a viable dinner option.

So, in the spirit of not totally grossing out and running loyal readers out my blogging world, I am just going to forewarn you that if you are the least bit squeamish and think that looking at pictures of cooked, peeled and cut-up beef tongue might scare you away from future posts, do not continue reading after the jump.

*Edit: I realize now that I wasn't very clear in the title but "Special" tacos is what my mother wrote in a wall post on Facebook probably because she was too grossed out to write what they actually were.

While I know that tacos de lengua (or beef tongue tacos) are not that strange in many parts of the country, but for a rural Pennsylvania girl (or a semi-rural OhioIndianaPennsylvania boy) like myself, this is the most "exotic" thing I've eaten in a long time.

This is what we bought at the store last week. Even I, with what I believe to be a pretty strong stomach, was a bit grossed out carrying it around the store before check out. Good news is that it was cheap by French meat standards, something like 6€ per kilo or about $3.50 per pound.

After lots of blog research I pieced together the method we would be using to cook this huge chunk of meat. First we simmered it for roughly 3 hours.

 After the simmering it looked like this. We were both still a bit squeamish at this point.

And the squeamishness only got worse when we had to peel the "skin" off of the tongue after cooking.

I had assumed that peeling the damn thing would make it look less like a tongue, but alas, I was wrong. Although you can tell at this point that the uneasiness was finally subsiding. Please ignore my lazy Saturday morning hair and general grossness. I was sweating in tongue steam all morning.

After the first cook we were finally able to make it look less like a tongue

(Note the pretty cross section. Ok, not everyone may find it pretty but I was certainly interested.)

by cutting it up into large cubes. We realized later that these should have been smaller, much smaller. But one of the many blogs I had read specified not to cut the pieces too small lest they fall to pieces during the second cook. Well, there were no specific measurements regarding "small" or "too small" so I erred on the side of too big. But I'll touch on that later.

To go along with our meat for the second cook I chopped up a bunch of veggies: 5 spring onions, 1.5 tomatoes (I was using up leftovers), 1/2 a red onion and 1 jalapeño-esque pepper.

All of the veggies were then sautéd and stewed (after the tomatoes broke down there wasn't much sautéing going on) with the requisite cumin and chili powder.

Finally, we added in the cubed tongue meat along with a little of its cooking broth and stewed all of this for 10 minutes or so (to allow the sauce to thicken and the meat to re-heat).

We served them on homemade flour tortillas with a pineapple salsa, homemade guacamole and crème fraîche.

The Verdict:
Eating these the first day was hard, I'm not going to lie. The tongue certainly has an organ-y flavor that we can normally handle but became too much when combined with the large and obvious chunks of tongue meat swimming in a soup of salsa, guacamole and crème fraîche. In hindsight, we really should have added a slaw of some description to add in some texture. But we were able to eat most of it that night for dinner. 

I did struggle with posting on the subject before we had a chance to mess around with the leftovers which we finally got around to doing last night, in the form of burritos. We cooked up some black beans and rice, shredded cheese and cut up some lettuce and tomatoes. In an effort to make the tongue more palatable, I threw it in our mini food processor for some quick pulses until it was chopped up into more of a fine dice size. Then we loaded it all up into more homemade tortillas (we have lots laying around but that's another story for another day) along with salsa and more crème fraîche and the outcome was so much better the second time around. The organ-y flavor was much less pronounced after being in the fridge a few days and the smaller dice on the meat and added bulk of rice and beans made this version of the meal not only palatable but enjoyable as we watched Anastasia on Netflix. And I have to agree with everyone else in the tacos de lengua blogging world when I say that the meat is incredibly tender. That being said, I don't think we'll be buying tongue any time soon if only because it's far too much meat for 2 people to deal with (we still have 1-2 meals worth left!). When we get back to the states though, buying one tongue and having the ability to freeze it in portion size will certainly be do-able. It'll also be a fun way to torture our future kids, it'll be what liver and onions was to me as a child (which I love as an adult!). 

All in all though, I'd call this little cooking experiment a success. As you may have noticed from previous blog posts, we really love to try out new and strange things; it's our hobby and our main source of entertainment. Not only was this a funky meal to prepare but something that could be economical in the future (I'm told that beef tongue is even cheaper back home). Anyway, I hope this post didn't gross you all out too much.

À bientôt! (hopefully)


  1. My adventuresome girl, I made several cow/beef tongues in my day coming from a farming PA Dutch family. Generally there were various pickling type of spices(cloves, cinnamon, bay-leaf, vinegar, pepper corns). According to those that ate it, I did an acceptable job but I was still a little grossed out and could never quite enjoy it. Mwah! Susan

  2. This was a very interesting blog to say the least and certainly generated lots of comments on FB. What organ is next on your list??????

  3. Not gonna lie, I'm a little grossed out. But kudos to you guys for having the guts to try it. And when you torture your kids with it, I see a perfect opportunity to win over their love and affections by teaching them to feed it to the dogs, then taking them out for pizza. Yes, I'm going to be that kind of aunt. :p