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April 28, 2007

Spiced Beef Tongue Recipe

Yesterday afternoon, Ruth Horowitz informed me that she would be eating leftover tongue for lunch. Although I'm the resident food writer, my co-workers don't usually drop by my desk to tell me what they're eating, but Ruth knows that I'm particularly interested in the American discomfort with chowing down on "variety meats."

She found the tongue for $1.99 a pound at City Market and prepared it using a tried and true recipe from the original, 1961 edition of The New York Times Cookbook.

Wanna try it? A friendly gentleman in the meat department explained that City Market gets tongue from the folks at LaPlatte River Angus farm in Shelburne, but they don't always have it around. To find out if tongue is available or to place a special order, call 863-3659, ext. 7. Meat from LaPlatte is free of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics.

Here's the recipe Ruth used, which I located with a little help from my mother.

Spiced Beef Tongue   6 servings

1 fresh beef tongue, about 3 pounds                3 strips lemon peel
1 tablespoon salt                                              1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 small onion, sliced                                         2 teaspoons brown sugar
Few whole black peppercorns                           1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf                                                          2 cups dry white wine
Water to cover

    1. Place the tongue, salt, onion, peppercorns and bay leaf in a saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover the pan and simmer until the tongue is fork tender, two and one-half to three hours.
    2. Remove the tongue from the water and cool slightly. Trim as for boiled fresh beef tongue, above. [taken from recipe above: cut off bones and gristle at the thick end of the tongue. Slit the skin from the thick end to the tip on the underside. Use a paring knife to loosen the skin at the thick end, and pull and peel off the skin from the thick end to the tip.] Cut the meat into thin slices.
    3. Place the tongue slices in a casserole and add the remaining ingredients. Bake, covered, in a preheated moderate oven (375° F.) until the meat absorbs nearly all the liquid, about thirty-five minutes. Serve hot or chilled.


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Tongue? EEEeeeewww!

Just kidding. It is interesting how cultural standards so rigidly dictate not only which dead animals are okay to eat, but which parts of the 'okay list' animals are considered edible.

It seems like only hard-core gastronomes manage to shake this squeamishness in the spirit of culinary exploration. Oh, and subsistence-level farmers who have no choice but to eat all the parts. The rest of us will only take it in unrecognizable hotdog form.


Mmmmm. It was really good. And at $1.99/lb, what a cheap source of protein! I didn't have three hours for the initial boiling, so I put it in the pressure cooker for an hour. But the best part of the experience (even better than knowing how people like Molly were likely to react) was when the cashier rang it up for us. The computer read the bar-code as "stuffed clams."

Ann Zuccardy

Thanks for sharing this recipe. I have fond memories about my first tongue tasting (no it wasn't at a high school dance). It was 15 years ago, I was living in NYC and my sister and husband threw me a surprise 30th birthday party. After a long ride from Queens on the F train (we never drove in those days), we rode the bumper cars at Coney Island and collected tacky plastic jewelry which we wore to our next birthday dinner at a Russian restaurant in Little Odessa (Brighton Beach area). I can't remember the name of the restaurant or much from that night, except the vodka and food. Mind you, I grew up in the Hamburger Helper section of Connecticut, so I thought all meat was ground beef in plastic wrapping at Shop-Rite. Anyway, after several juice glasses of room temperature vodka from the bottles on the tables, I first tasted tongue.

I loved it. It was tender and flavorful. I have ordered it several times (only at excellent restaurants where I know it will be prepared well) since.

I'd talk about my secret penchant for foie gras, but I know foie gras is not an ummmmm.... particularly politically correct food and it makes me feel oh-so-guilty to enjoy it.

Ann Zuccardy
Vermont Shortbread Company


Molly -- I'm still working to shake the "ugh" reaction -- it's a long slow process. Intellectually, I know that a muscle is a muscle. I even love eating rather large pieces of animal fat, crispy poultry skin and livers, and I've tried sweetbreads and beef heart, but for some reason, I still get grossed out by the thought of eating, say, kidney or brains. However, as an "ethical" meat eater (one who only eats meat from pastured animals raised by VT farmers I know personally and trust to treat animals well), I feel I ought to consume my fair share of organ meats. It's a work in progress...defying those cultural standards you mention isn't easy.


Hi Ann! I used to visit Brighton Beach frequently when I was really little and we lived in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, my culinary experiences there were limited to potato knish from a vendor on the beach. I used to cry if my parents wouldn't buy them for me -- I loved my knish.

As for foie gras -- I share the penchant, and feel a little less guilty since I read an article called Stuffed Animals by Jeffrey Steingarten, one of my favorite food writers.


I buy tongue whenever I find it in the store, which isn't too often. We had it fairly often at home when I was growing up, but it was always smoked. Smoked tongue is also a great deli meat, delicious on rye bread sandwiches.

Dealing with fresh tongue is a whole other challenge, though. Several years ago I found one at Price Chopper. I was standing in the check out line, when a woman from Mexico whom I knew but not all that well called out to me, "Is that tongue?" It took me a while to understand what she was saying. She has a pretty heavy accent, and beside, I was buying lots of groceries and not expecting anyone to shout out to me, "Is that tongue?"

Anyway, once we'd finally connected, she told me her happy memories of eating tongue as a child in Mexico City. I never did get her recipe, which involved tomatoes. But in searching for it, I came across a nice one for "Lengua Almendrada," Tongue with Almond Sauce, in Marge Poore's 1000 Mexican Recipes. I recommend both the book and the recipe.

As for my Mexican co-tongue indulger, since our eww-eating bonding experience at Price Chopper, she and I have become pretty good friends.

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