1 beef tongue
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic
2 onions, preferably sweet
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
16 oz. mushrooms (bella, something really subtle)
1 bottle wine (Burgundy, Beaujolais, Merlot)
butter as needed
olive oil as needed
salt and pepper to taste
I woke up really late today, having had a beer last night and an allergy pill around 4 this morning. I knew I had a recently dead heifer’s tongue wrapped up in plastic inside my refrigerator left over from shooting last night. Say what you will about the moral quandaries the eating of meat inspires; wasting a perfectly edible, if awfully recognizable cut of beef because it makes one a bit squeamish is just no good.
So around 11:30 I put my hair up and strolled into the kitchen. I grabbed a large stock pot with a heavy bottom and wrangled the tongue into it. The tongue should not be frozen when you do this. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the tongue with about 1” of room, add the tea spoon of salt, 1 clove garlic (halved), 1 onion (quartered), 1 carrot (quartered), and the bay leaf, and put it on medium heat until boiling. Once boiling, bring down the heat and let simmer for a couple hours or so. All you’re doing is cooking the meat and making it easier to remove the skin later, as well as creating the stock for your stew. (If you’re reading this and think you know a better way to flavor your stock; have at it. Do what you want.)
This would be a good time to make phone calls to IDES if you are receiving unemployment benefits. It’s also a good time to brush your teeth, shower, dress, update your blog, sit on your porch, whatever.
Once a couple of hours have passed and the tongue is cooked, remove it from the pot and place on a carving board.
Strain and retain the stock you’ve just made. Throw away the boiled veggies but continue to slowly cook down the liquid. As the water steams off, the flavor will enhance. Regarding the tongue, you’ll want to let it sit and cool for a bit. I used a paring knife to cut the skin away. Some recipes led me to believe the skin would fall right off—this is not the case. Discard the skin and cut the tongue into roughly bite sized pieces. OH THANK GOD IT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE A TONGUE ANYMORE. Put aside.
At this point I realized a really wanted to do a spin on beef burgundy but I didn’t have a bottle of wine on hand. I turned the flame under my stock off and left the house for my local supermarcado. They had exactly one bottle of $7 merlot, so that’s what’s in this recipe. Ideally, you want a decent Burgundy that you’d be happy to drink, but, again, do what you want with what you’ve got.
When I got home I gently warmed up my prized Le Creuset pot with some butter and olive oil in the bottom. I slowly turned up the heat until the oil was spitting hot and dumped the meat in. It should sizzle like crazy. You’re doing this to brown the meat, which gives it a much richer flavor than simply boiling. Don’t disturb the meat much, just give it a little stir every few minutes. Put in some salt and pepper.
Once the meat is browned and there’s wonderful bits (the fond) sticking to the bottom of your pot, pour in about 3 cups of that stock you’ve been working on for a while now. This will deglaze the pan. Then add the bottle of wine (minus the half cup or so that you’re reserving for yourself.) Add a few tablespoons of tomato paste. Add the remaining stock so the mix is about 1 to 1 wine to stock, with maybe a bit more stock.
What you’re looking at now is starting to resemble the stew you’re going to have in a very short while. Leave it on low heat and ignore it for now.
Now, pre-heat your oven to 425F. Cut up 2 large carrots and 1 onion into bite-sized pieces. Give them some olive oil and place in a glass baking dish. Make sure they aren’t crowded so they don’t just steam themselves. Put this in the oven until the onions are brown and smell like heaven.
While the carrots and onions are roasting, cut your mushrooms into pieces of a size you’d like in a stew and brown them in batches so as not to crowd them (THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.) Brown them by placing them in a very hot pan (I like my cast iron pan for this, but any high-quality, heavy bottomed pan will do) with butter and olive oil. (Not just butter; butter burns. Olive oil fortifies the butter.) Don’t fuss with them. Just let them sit in the hot oil until they’re brown and then flip them over. Put aside.
Some time has gone by. I’ll say, like, probably 25 minutes or so, and it’s time to pull out the carrots and onions. Using a soup ladle, pour several helpings of the wine and stock broth into the dish to deglaze it, then pour all of the contents of the dish right back into the pot of stew. Then put the mushrooms you just browned right in there too.
Continue to cook the stew over low heat until you basically can’t stand it anymore. I’d say it’s finished when you can no longer taste any alcohol from the wine in the broth. The meat should be soft and very tender, and the broth should be just a little bit thick. Not thick enough to glaze a wooden spoon, but not watery either.