The best pickled tongue I ever had was at a Basque restaurant in Fresno, California. The worst pickled tongue I ever had was at a Basque restaurant in Fresno. Done right this dish is a Tasty delight. Done wrong it is horrid.
A good pickled tongue should be thinly sliced and tender. The dressing should be balanced and slightly sweet/sour and herby. And the meat should be marinated for at least 4 hours.
A pickled tongue should not be tough and thickly sliced. The marinade should not taste of harsh raw garlic or be mouth puckeringly sour. And finally, it should not have the marinade just splashed on just before serving.
Karl’s Pickled Tongue
½ – 1 lb. cooked beef tongue, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic (see notes)
3 Tbs. sherry vinegar
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. cilantro, minced
1 tsp. red onion, minced
½ tsp. jalapeño, minced
½ tsp. thyme, fresh minced
½ tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. black pepper, cracked
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
Pinch celery seeds
Pinch dry yellow mustard
Several lettuce leaves
1. After you have cooked the tongue, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate it for at least 12 hours.
Tip: This chilling sets the meat and makes it firm enough to slice the meat very thinly.
2. Wrap one of the cloves of garlic in plastic and microwave it for 15-20 seconds. Let it cool and use the edge of a knife to crush it into a fine paste. Put it into a small jar.
3. Mince the other clove of garlic finely and add it to the jar.
4. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cover and shake the jar. Let it meld for 20 minutes.
Tip: You can change any of the other ingredients of this marinade, but always include the mustard. The mustard acts as an emulsifier preventing the oil and vinegar from separating.
5. Slice the tongue as thinly as you can—an eighth of an inch or thinner.
6. Take a large, shallow plastic container with a lid.
7. Smear the bottom of the container with a small bit of the marinade.
8. Lay the meat in a single layer and top the slices with a bit more of the dressing.
Tip: How much marinade you use for each layer depends on how many layers of meat you think you will have. You want some remaining to top the last layer. Short the marinade a bit in the first layers because any excess will drip down later.
9. Lay the second layer cross wise from the first layer.
Tip: This guarantees that there will be spaces for the marinade to move through the container.
10. When you reach the final layer, spread the remaining dressing over the top and tightly seal the container. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
11. Gently swirl the container to redistribute the marinade about once an hour.
Tip: Do not violently shake the marinating meat. This would cause it to break into an ugly mass. For the same reason, do not turn the container over (unless the meat is stacked all the way to the top).
12. Lay a bed lettuce on a plate. Gently lift out and arraign the slices of meat decoratively on top of the lettuce. Pour the remaining marinade over the meat.