The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Beef Tongue And Favas

June 23rd, 2009 · 7 Comments · Posted in dinner, garden, Recipes

Tastes just like pot roast

Tastes just like pot roast

Imagine the most delicious pot roast you’ve ever tasted. Now open your eyes and look at your plate. That’s no beef chuck, my friend. That’s tongue.

This may be the first time ever that friends have declined a dinner invitation. “Too squeamish,” abjured one of our most reliable gastro partners when we announced our beef tongue feast. My own memories of tongue are hazy. I remember some bumps. But was this something we ate at home, back in the days when such things as tongue were not so unusual? Or was it perhaps a deli purchase, back in the days when there were delis and you could purchase such things as a finely prepared beef tongue?

In any case, we were anxious to see how this turned out. I had been happy to find tongue listed one day among the pastured meats in the butcher section of our dairy’s website (South Mountain Creamery). It looked like a bargain. It was delivered one day with our milk. After thawing the tongue in the fridge, I brined it for a week following directions from the offal master, Fergus Henderson, and his Nose to Tail Eating. Yesterday the tongue was lifted from its salty-sugary bath and cooked ever so gently with lots of gorgeous aromatics that looked like this:

The broth is a meal in itself

The broth is a meal in itself

The formula is simple. Place the brined tongue at the bottom of a heavy pot. Add two leeks, trimmed, cleaned and roughly chopped; two carrots, peeled and chopped; two celery stalks, roughly chopped; a whole onion, halved; a head of garlic, halved; a small fistful of fresh thyme and a bay leaf. Cover everything with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook at a bare simmer for 3 1/2 hours.

Remove the cooked tongue to a cutting board. When it has cooled a little, use a sharp knife and some tongs to remove the tough outer skin. It should peel away fairly easily. Meanwhile, strain the vegetables from the cooking liquid and before discarding them press their juices back into the broth. You will find this broth startlingly delicious. It’s full of good nutrition as well. It will make a meal on its own with the addition of a few simple vegetables. Chill it overnight in the fridge so any fat in it congeals and can be skimmed away.

I thought very hard about how to serve out tongue. Hot? Room temp? Cold? Tongue is said to make a super sandwich but also likes full-flavored sauces, such as horseradish. Out in the garden, however, the fava beans have been calling. With a slight nod to Hannibal Lecter, I decided to save them for our tongue. The harvest was not what it might have been. We’ve had so much rain, not enough sun. There’s been quite a lot of rotting going on, bean pods shriveling and turning black on the poor plants. I took what I could–maybe three servings worth.

After the beans have been removed from their pods they need to be blanched in boiling water for about 30 seconds to loosen the tough skins in which they are encased. I then rinse them in cold water and slit the skin with a paring knife. The beans pop out fairly easily with a gently squeeze. They can then be cooked in salted water or steamed or sauteed. I just drizzled them with olive oil and gave them a dusting of Parmesan cheese.

To serve the meat, I whipped together our favorite garlicky herb sauce with the mortar and pestle. A little garlic, some tarragon, a few dill leaves, a bit of mint if you have it, mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, mirin. The procedure is described more fully in a previous post.

Pour yourself a glass of Chianti and you can call this dinner.

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  • pubwvj

    I was brought up that smoked tongue was a delicacy. We got it on special occasions and were only allowed a little (we had a big family) but I always looked forward to it. Delicious! I was amazed to learn as an adult that some people were turned off by tongue. Ironically, the pork tongue from our farm sells only to the most upscale restaurants. I still love it.

  • Ed Bruske

    Walter, you are a man after my own heart. I am surprised to hear that fine restaurants are serving pork tongue, because I’ve never seen it on a menu. Maybe I just don’t get out enough. Could you name a couple? It would be fun to look up their menus online….

  • Sylvie

    I’ll take it it’ll be back on the menu, Ed?

    I like tongue in summer because I can just simmer it in the crockpot on the porch and then is ready for quick meals, hot or cold – not need to heat up the kitchen, thank you very much. And in winter, it can simmer inside… bringing the extra much wanted heat inside.

    Congrats on a successful dish … and a successful crop of favas.

  • pubwvj


    Restaurants who buy our pork tongue that I can think of right off the top of my head:

    Carpenter and Main in Norwich, VT

    River Run in Plainfield, VT

    They tend to have it on and off the menu. Apparently the River Run dish is Spanish and has a name I don’t know. The chef said it to my wife but she didn’t remember the dish name.



  • Michele

    I have cooked tongue numerous times over the past few years, primarily using Julia Child’s book. I’ve never brined it and it’s been tender and delicious. Your recipe also sounds greats. Perhaps I’ll try the brining to see if I notice a difference when done a la Fergus Henderson.

  • lisa

    Where do you get your fava seeds/plants?

  • Ed Bruske

    Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. But any large seed company should offer them online.