Speaking of Tongue

May 24, 2018

It was meant to be a joke: to celebrate my friend Peter’s birthday I braised him a tongue.  He and I both love this deliciously soft and seductive meat, but it makes everyone else we know remarkably squeamish.  Which, I will admit, kind of delights me.

I went to a local farm and purchased the tongue, thinking I would serve it in all its gruesome glory.

To begin, I braised it, cooking the whole tongue slowly in water, herbs, and onions for a long time (about 6 hours).  When it was entirely soft, I pulled it from its bath and peeled off the outer membrane.  Even as a child I found this extremely satisfying; it shrugs so easily out of its coat  Then I put the peeled tongue back into the pot and let it cool a bit, pulling it out just as the guests arrived. I set it on a platter and watched the reaction: most people went visibly pale.  A cooked tongue retains all its essential tongueness. 

Peter, however, was happy.  I sliced the tongue and served it with a rich and pungent sauce gribiche.  The meat was soft, tender, completely beefy. Sadly, few friends were game enough to take a taste. 

Their loss. Tongue keeps well. I wrapped it in plastic and left it to brood among the onions and the eggs in the refrigerator for a few days. 

Then, when nobody was looking, I chopped it up, slicked a pan with a bit of oil, and crisped the cubes of tongue.  I set them on warm corn tortillas, covered them with a chunky spicy homemade salsa, added a few strips of avocado, a squirt of lime, a sprinkling of cilantro and served them all around.

“What are these delicious tacos?” everyone cried.  “What kind of beef is this?  These are the tastiest tacos we’ve ever eaten.”

“Oh,” I replied casually, “they’re a classic Mexican dish.  Tacos de lengua. So glad you like them!”

Tongue Two Ways.

Braised Tongue with Sauce Gribiche

1 cow’s tongue, 2 to 3 pounds

1 onion, cut in half

1 carrot peeled

1 stalk celery

Few stems of parsley

1 bay leaf



Put all the ingredients in a large pot, cover completely with water, and bring it to a boil.  Meanwhile, cut a piece of parchment paper just large enough to cover the entire surface of the pot.

When the water arrives at a boil, turn it down to a simmer, cover with the parchment and cook for 4 to 6 hours, until the tongue has gone completely soft and tender. Add more water as needed.

Life the tongue from the pot and set it on a cutting board.  This is the fun part; with your fingers, pull the top membrane off the tongue until it is completely naked.  Put the tongue back into the liquid until you’re ready to serve it.  (It’s good hot or at room temperature.  You can also, once it has cooled, wrap it in a zip lock bag and keep it for a few days in the refrigerator.)

Strain the liquid and save it for stock.

Slice the tongue and top it with sauce gribiche.


Sauce Gribiche

2 tablespoona Dijon mustard

5 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine or cider vinegar

2 tablespoons capers

4  cornichons, chopped

2 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Salt, pepper

Mix the first six ingredients.  Add salt and pepper, and taste for seasoning.  Just before serving,  mix in the parsley.


Tongue Tacos

1 cooked tongue


Fresh lime

Avocado slices

Corn tortillas


Rougly chop the cooked tongue into half inch or so cubes.

Slick a skillet with a bit of neutral oil (you don’t need much; there’s a lot of fat in a tongue), allow it get hot and cook the tongue until the pieces are browned and crisp.  Season with salt and pepper.

Serve on tortillas with accompaniments.

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  • greg says:

    Funny – tacos de lengua moniker makes them easier to enjoy.

  • Carolyn says:

    I love it! Tongue was on the dinner menu rotation when I was growing up in the 50s (we had the best butcher shop) – I’m so glad to see real butcher shops opening up now in San Francisco. We’ve just moved to the upper Hudson Valley where we are able to go directly to the farms to buy our meat. Next – figuring out our fish connection 🙂