Sometimes I make the oddest impulse purchases. Last week it was a beef tongue that happened to catch my eye. After a brief conversation with the butcher to find out if it had been peeled (it had) and how he liked to cook it, I took it home and left it to thaw. Since the cow’s tongue does a lot of work, it’s a cut of meat that needs to be cooked low and slow, making it a perfect candidate for the slow cooker. Seeing as my new stove hadn’t yet arrived I couldn’t go with my faster slow-cooking technique, where everything goes into an oven-safe pot and I bring it to a boil on the stovetop, then throw it in a low oven for a few hours. The slow cooker turned out to be a better option anyhow, since I had to be out of the house for a good chunk of the day.
After a little research, I threw the tongue into the slow cooker with a chopped onion, a whole lot of crushed garlic cloves, some bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt. I think it would have been perfectly fine with just salt and garlic, to be honest – the aromatics mostly just made the house smell good. I left it to cook on low until it was tender, which was probably 6-8 hours. When it was done I had a slight accident with the slow cooker insert and ended up spilling tongue broth all over the pantry counter and, horrifyingly, inside part of the window. Once I’d recovered from cleaning that up, I was done with the project for the night and had a beer for dinner instead of tongue. Luckily, I hadn’t dumped the entire batch of broth and could just strain it and refrigerate the tongue in its cooking liquid.
Last night we needed a quick dinner and tongue tacos (or tacos de lengua, as I generally call them because some people get squicked out when you tell them you’re eating TONGUE. And also because it makes me feel like I remember a little more high school Spanish than I really do) sounded like the absolute perfect solution. I pulled the meat out of its cooking broth (which I ended up discarding), sliced it up, and fried it in a little oil until some of the slices were a bit browned.
Once the meat had heated through and browned a little, Chris chopped it up for me and then we piled the chopped tongue into warmed tortillas and topped it with sliced radishes, cilantro, and some salsa. I’d have added lime juice if we’d had any, but the salsa we had on hand has pineapple in it, which took care of the fruitiness and acidity.
Tacos de Lengua
- One beef tongue
- 1 small onion, chopped (optional)
- 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 2 bay leaves (optional)
- 10-15 peppercorns (optional)
- 1 tsp salt (NOT optional)
- lard/canola oil
- corn tortillas
- sliced radishes
- salsa (salsa verde/tomatillo salsa would be fantastic with this)
- lime juice
Place tongue, onions, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorn, and salt in slow cooker and cover with cold water. Cook on low until the tongue is tender, 6-8 hours, depending on the size of the tongue. Remove from slow cooker and strain and reserve cooking broth. The tongue can be refrigerated in the broth until you’re ready to use it, or else proceed as follows. If the tongue was not peeled, you can easily peel the skin off now using your fingers and a small knife.
In a heavy pan, heat a tablespoon or so of lard or oil over medium heat. While the pan is heating, slice the tongue in 1/8″ slices (this is much easier when it’s cold). Fry the slices on both sides until they’re warmed through and slightly browned, then dice them up. Serve in warmed corn tortillas with salsa, sliced radishes, lime juice, and cilantro. ENJOY!