My sister, Karen, and I were at the Christmas breakfast table reminiscing as one does. The subject of beef tongue came up. Our mother, Claudia, would make beef tongue occasionally as we were growing up. I decided to whip some up to go with the Chickyssoise I was making for dinner.
At some point Karen had mentioned that she really liked it. For years after that when Karen would come home from her travels, beef tongue would appear on the table as her first meal back. It took Karen years to break it to mother, that while she did like beef tongue, that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
A beef tongue is actually a lot of meat and, after you have had a hot tongue dish, or two, you usually have lots more left over to fix in other ways. When the girls were in England I prepared several. But with only one person eating it even I got tired of it. Fortunately, it freezes well and I had left the tip of the tongue in my icebox.
At Karen’s mention of her fondness for tongue I offered to use this leftover to make some for dinner on Christmas night. The hard part of cooking tongue was already done. All I had to do was defrost, slice and give the meat a few hours of pickling.
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.
Note: Since this was not a planned dish I did not have all of the ingredients that I used making it last time. Not a problem, you cook with what you have.
Karl’s Pickled Beef Tongue II
½ – 1 lb. cooked beef tongue, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic (see notes)
3 Tbs. sherry vinegar
3 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. flat-leafed parsley, minced
2 Tbs. shallot, minced
½ tsp. thyme, fresh minced
½ tsp. sugar
½ tsp. black pepper, cracked
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
Pinch celery seeds
Pinch Indian chili powder
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 bowl.
3. Mince the other clove of garlic finely and add it to the bowl.
4. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. 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. Starting with the largest slice, dip it in the marinade and lay it in the plastic container.
8. Dip and lay the nest slice and lay it partially over the first.
9. Continue dimming and arraigning the meat until you have a single layer. 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.
10. Continue dipping and layering the slices.
Tip: This guarantees that there will be spaces for the marinade to move through the container.
11. When you reach the final layer, spread the remaining dressing over the top and tightly seal the container. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
12. 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).
13. 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.