Everyone remembers the first time they ever had tongue—and no, I’m not talking about that time I made out with that guy who looked like Paul McCartney, in his basement apartment, on a Papasan Chair.
I am talking beef tongue. A super-tender cut of meat with an intense beefy flavor and a bite that melts in your mouth. People either love it or hate it—I happen to be one of the former.
But liking lengua tacos from the Mexican restaurant down the street is one thing; actually preparing the beef tongue in your kitchen is another. The tongue itself is like a three-pound brick covered in sandpaper. And I was NOT mentally prepared for it (as depicted by my inner monologue):
“You can do this.”
“This is NOT the grossest thing you’ve ever had in your hands… ”
“Did it just move? ”
“Of course it didn’t move. ”
“It’s dead. ”
“You’ll be fine.”
“You have this UNDER. CONTROL. ”
But what does one do with beef tongue other than tacos? A Reuben.
Bread? Melted cheese? Russian dressing? In.
I wanted to offset the gamey flavor of the tongue with kimchi to give a light tanginess and a bit of heat. I opted for ciabatta instead of a traditional Rye to give the sandwich that crunchy texture on the outside while maintaining a chewy center. The brining process for the beef tongue takes time and patience, but as with any great dish, the taste payoff is worth it.
Eat it all (or freeze the leftovers). It’s your tongue, so do with it what you will. Sit back, relax and let me slip you some tongue:
1 Whole Beef Tongue
1 large onion, cut into eighths
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
6 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons of pickling spice (the kind with whole chiles)
1 cup of kosher salt
1 cup of sugar
1. Combine water, pickling spice, vegetables, salt, and sugar in a large stainless steel pot. Bring the mixture to a boil for 5 minutes to dissolve salt and sugars. Remove from heat, and let brine cool completely — cold, not warm. (I stuck the whole pot in the fridge for a couple hours because I’m a cheater.) Rinse the beef tongue under cold water just before adding it to the cooled brine. Refrigerate 8-12 hours.
2. Strain the brine, reserving vegetables and spices. Fill the pot with fresh water and return spices and vegetables. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 6-8 hours, until tender.
3. When the tongue is tender, remove from the pot and let it sit until cool. Once cool, peel away outer skin/taste buds and cut out the cartilage found at the back of the tongue.
Now it’s Reuben time.
2 slices of ciabatta or rye bread
2 tablespoons of butter
1 ½ tablespoons of Russian dressing
Corned beef tongue, thinly sliced
1. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a pan over medium heat. Butter each slice of bread, and place non-buttered side on pan.
2. Put cheese and kimchi on one piece of bread, and Russian dressing on the other. Add the sliced beef tongue to sandwich, and then place one piece of bread on the other. Flip it. Reverse it. Enjoy.