I’m an adventurous eater. There isn’t a whole lot out there that I won’t at least try once. My wife is actually always a little leery of opening up the fridge in fear of finding some odd cut of meat that I brought home that day. Apparently there’s something a little unnerving about opening the fridge to find a buffalo heart staring back at you.
Or so I’ve been told. One of the pieces of meat that always gets a good eye roll from my wife is tongue. Whether it is a bag of deer tongues that I am going to pickle or a large cow tongue that I am brining to make tongue pastrami: the tongues always garner a few comments. I don’t disagree with her. There’s nothing attractive about a tongue. I don’t know of many people that would sit down to a boiled tongue on a plate and say it looks delicious. It looks like a tongue.
So how do you get around that? How do you take a tongue and turn it into something people want to eat? I find that if you disguise any food as something familiar. you will have much more success getting them to try it. One of my favorite things to do with tongues is to braise them and make shredded tongue tacos. Tacos are familiar to most and when you shred the tongue up it looks no different than shredded beef. Most people are at least willing to try it then.
People tend to shy away from tongues because when you look at a tongue it doesn’t look edible. It doesn’t look like a piece of meat; most people certainly aren’t aware that you have to skin a tongue before you use it. The outer layer of skin can be peeled off to reveal that the tongue is just one big piece of muscle. In order to skin a tongue you need to simmer it in lightly salted water for a while. The time depends on how large the tongue is. A buffalo tongue might need to simmer for 2 hours where a deer tongue may only need 1 hour. You will know when it has simmered long enough when the skin peels off easily.
Once the skin is off you can see a nice looking piece of meat that can be used in a number of different ways. I have smoked tongue with good results and made corned tongue and tongue pastrami. (Once it’s sliced up you’d never even know it was a tongue unless I told you.) And the best part about tongue is that no one ever wants them. I usually end up with several tongues in the freezer from a variety of game animals.
In fact a friend of mine had collected all the elk tongues from a hunting trip he went on and gave me a bag of them last year. I have been using them up in every way you can imagine and with the last one I decided to make Elk tongue tamales, which you see here. Below is a recipe for tacos.
For the shredded elk tongue
One elk tongue
16 oz jar of salsa verde
2 cups of water
3-4 chipotles in adobo sauce Plus 2 tablespoons of the sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste.
1. Place the tongue in a pot of simmering water for 2 hours. Then peel the skin off the tongue. Sometime the skin peels right off and sometimes you have to shave it off with a knife.
2. Place the tongue in an oven proof pan that has a lid, add the salsa verde, water, chipotles with sauce and the cumin, then place in a 300 degree oven for 4 hours.
3. Check the tongue to see if it’s done; when the tongue shreds apart easily, it’s ready.
4. Shred the tongue and add some of the braising liquid to the meat, season with salt and pepper and enjoy in tacos or burritos or tamales.