Saturday, July 16, 2011

Langue de Boeuf

Woops, forgot to adjust the white balance when shooting.

What's that? You have 3-4 hours to kill and a beef tongue on hand? Then boy do I have the recipe for you! Or rather, Andrea Nguyen over at Viet World Kitchen does. She's a great resource for Asian cooking from different countries (though, I disagree with her approach to luo bo gao, or turnip cakes, but that's for another post), but this particular recipe is French.

This dish just saved French cuisine from my eternal damnation. No kidding. I'd pretty much written it off as having dairy involved in too many things, as much Western cuisine, at least in restaurants, does. But this dish does not! (Alright, fine, neither does ratatouille.) And beef tongue is SO delicious when done well. The meat is so tender, melty, and rich. But--it takes a long time to cook. And this recipe was very involved, with many steps, on top of tongue's being a slow-cooking cut.*

Ah, there's another interesting point about Nguyen's recipe here. She's Vietnamese and learned the recipe from her mom, who drew from French and Vietnamese cooking. But this recipe apparently is essentially the same as a recipe from a popular 1920's French cookbook. Vietnam, of course, was heavily impacted by the French occupation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (On the plus side, that's how banh mi, the delicious Vietnamese baguettes, were created.)

Anyway, back to the beef tongue. Although it was really a fantastic dish, it did take a lot of time and effort. I'd probably only make it again for special occasions. I ended up spending 3-4 hours making it, from the parboiling, to skinning, to sautéing and browning, to simmering and turning, to cooling the meat and reducing the sauce, to cutting, plating, saucing, and finally eating.

Waiting for the water to boil for parboiling the tongue.
 Parboiled and now cooling in water. Notice the white skin on top; that has to be removed because it's very tough.

Sautéing the onions, browning the tongue, sautéing the rest of the ingredients and spices.
After that's done, we stick the whole pot in the preheated oven for 45 minutes per pound (so 1.5 hours for this one) and turn the meat every half hour to ensure even cooking.

 The tongue cooling (with another plate on top to keep moisture in) after braising, removal from the pot

 The other ingredients after straining the soup.
I ended up eating these anyway since they're still delicious

Reducing the strained soup to a sauce.
I had twice the amount of fluid left compared to what the recipe claimed!
Reducing took longer, then, and I also messed up the corn starch add by failing to stir the sauce as I poured. Oh well.

Finally done! The sauce isn't lying thickly on top of the meat because of my botched cornstarch add. 
At that point I didn't care. It was still delicious.

*I love these slow-cooking cuts that other Americans don't go for! They are full of flavor and much cheaper than the other cuts. Beef tongue, oxtail, pork shoulder, pork bones, beef shoulder, chicken quarters... Note, for example, that an oxtail costs the same per pound at the cheap ethnic markets as it does from the organic-local-delivering-farm that I got this tongue from. Meanwhile, the other cuts of beef average $15+/lb, which tells you something about the relative demand at the different venders. Furthermore, it's wasteful to throw out these perfectly good cuts of meat. It would probably be beneficial for us to expand our diet. But until that happens, I'll take the cheapness of these cuts. Of course, there is the time investment to trade off, too.


  1. @Lillian Thanks, Lillian! And thanks for reading! :)

  2. Completely agree with the last paragraph. Though I also like making pasta with chicken hearts and gizzards, which is fun for freaking out my roommates (and cheap).

  3. @Chris Lin Wow, I've never worked with chicken hearts or gizzards. Are you getting them through buying whole chickens?

  4. Wherever did you get tongue?? Although I'm too impatient to try cooking tongue myself, this recipe is right up Peter's alley. I know he's been on the lookout for tongue. It is a shame that cuts like this aren't used so much in the U.S. I had some lovely dishes in China that I just can't replicate here.

    Great post, William! I hope you have a great week!

  5. @Jessie @ The Happiness in Health Kind-of by chance! You know how there are groupon-type deal sites proliferating all over the place now? Well, there's one specific to DC called Capitol Deal, and one day they had one for a local, natural, organic, delivering farm. So I browsed their products and picked up a coupon! Yeah, definitely not easy to find.

    Mmm, yeah, when I first looked at the picture on Nguyen's recipe, I was hit with instant recognition of the Chinese preparation of it. I knew when I was little my mom had once told me what I was eating was beef tongue (and then called me out on the "well you liked it before you knew what it was") but I couldn't remember what it looked like. Clearly, after that childhood moment I'd subsequently had more beef tongue, but just not realized that's what it was. :)

    Next time I have one I'll go for the Chinese preparation instead.

    Make Peter cook it for you! Haha, sweet deal.