The Remix: Tongue Reuben
Yes, it looks like a tongue. Amy Kritzer/JW
2-3 pounds of meat
active: 30 min
total: 5 hr
This is the next installment in our series The Remix, in which we seek to gently rework the more challenging dishes in the Jewish culinary canon. With a little bit of love, we’re convinced we can make any dish delicious, even ones that seem a bit bizarre to the modern palate.
Yes, you read that right. We are cooking beef tongue today. If you haven’t seen one before, brace yourself. First thing you will notice is that it looks like, well, a big ’ole tongue. But once you get past that, tongue is delicious, super-flavorful and affordable.
Your bubbe will be happy to hear that tongue is having a bit of a moment. Bon Appetit’s restaurant and drinks editor, Andrew Knowlton declared tongue to be a food trend of 2015 along with tacos, gyros and cooking with cannabis. Really. Though Knowlton simply asked his readers to try the super tender meat, not cook it, I’m begging you to take that extra step. Tongue is very tender after a slow-and-low preparation and has an extra meaty flavor: It’s an oft-used muscle, after all.
If you’ve had homemade tongue before, it may have been similar to how my bubbe would prepare it. Simmered in water until tender and then topped with a sweet and tangy sauce, or pickled. Or you may have had a beef tongue sandwich on a trip to Katz’s or Cantor’s, slathered in a spicy mustard. Either way, most people are in the love it or hate it camp.
It’s a muscle with connective tissues that needs to be cooked for a long time on a low temperature or else you are left with a tough tongue. And no one wants that. But cook it too long and it all falls apart. The tongue is also covered in a layer of skin that you need to peel off before noshing. The best way to do this is to simmer the tongue in water and peel off the skin while it’s warm. This is just as gross as it sounds. This part of the proess also gets a bit stinky, but that’s where the grossness ends. I swear.
Instead of traditional tongue preparation, I cooked mine in beer and pastrami-inspired spices. Way easier than making pastrami from scratch (brining it for at least a week, then smoking for hours. I want my Reuben now!)
A fun game to play. Give some tongue to your guests but don’t tell them what it is until then end. Surprise! Try tongue instead of your usual cut in your favorite chili, shredded beef taco or Sloppy Joe recipe. You may never go back.
Amy Kritzer is a food writer and recipe developer in Austin, Texas. She blogs at What Jew Wanna Eat.