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Remembering Kevin Moore

Jimmy Moore’s Adventures In ‘Odd Bits’: Cow Tongue

It’s been almost two weeks since my wife Christine and I went full-fledged low-carb Paleo with our nutrition and I can’t say anything bad about the experience so far. Surely I’d have some cravings. Nope. But what about finding good quality food to consume? No problem between my local farm, farmer’s market and the Internet. In fact, take a gander at all the delicious and nutritious food we are consuming now!

I’ve been cooking a couple of times daily since this started and have rekindled my long lost love for experimenting with food again. It’s been a revival of my low-carb lifestyle of sorts that has been sorely needed for a long while. Christine is certainly loving all the fresh, homemade Paleo food (and doesn’t mind cleaning up the dirty dishes I pile up in the sink) and is thrilled to be walking this journey at this time.

However, if you watched that video of me showing you what is in my refrigerator, then you may have noticed a rather strange food I mentioned was lurking in there. Did you catch it? No? WATCH IT AGAIN HERE–FAST FORWARD TO THE 1:39 MARK.

Yes, you heard me right. I’ve got beef tongue. As in the tongue from a cow. It’s not just any cow, mind you–grass-fed all the way baby! But I know the first thought so many of you are having right now if you’ve never consumed tongue in your diet is “EWWWWW, gross!” Believe me, I got a lot of that from my Facebook friends. Take a look at what some of them had to say about this:

“I cannot get over that’s it is a tongue. I’m sure it’s delicious, but I have a serious mental block that prevents me from eating tongue. lol”

“Can’t get over the mental hurdle. I’d feel like I was french kissing my food :P”

“I just can’t get by the thought and would gag….lol”

“I’m for organ meats per se, I’ll eat pate like a princess, but I’m not going to look at a huge beef tongue.”

“I think I am going to pass on that dinner invitation. I remember being served tongue in grade school. I did not get to go to recess on those days cause I did not clean my plate.”

Funny? Yes! In fact, I probably would have been cracking the same kind of jokes not that long ago if I had read about one of my friends on Facebook talking about cooking up a tongue…that is, until I started being more adventurous with my food thanks to the influence over the years of The Weston A. Price Foundation and my newfound Paleo diet. The fact is the tongue of a cow is nothing more than another muscle in the body. And we already eat much of the other muscle on a cow–so why not the tongue?

Coincidentally, as I was beginning to become gung ho about trying beef tongue for the first time in nearly four decades of life, I heard from my friend Jennifer McLagan, a James Beard Award-winning author of Fat: An Appreciation Of A Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes which was named the “Cookbook of the Year” by the Beard Foundation in 2009 (I even had the privilege of interviewing Jennifer on my podcast in December 2008 about this awesome book). Well, she’s back in 2011 with a brand spankin’ new book that deals with–what else?–all the “odd bits” of meat that aren’t usually consumed but can be a critical part of the animals we consume. The book is called Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal and I look forward to interviewing Jennifer about this later this year.

Jennifer has a section in her book on animal tongues beginning on page 49 where she acknowledges how some people get grossed out by the thought of eating a tongue. She recalled having “ox tongue” at Christmas each year that was potted tongue meat with jelly which she admitted was “not my favorite part of Christmas dinner.” She later grew to appreciate tongue more without the jelly and on a sandwich with sharp mustard instead. Jennifer says it’s time for people to give tongue a second chance to be explored. She encourages making sandwiches, salads, or just about anything that goes with tender, melts-in-your-mouth meat. My new friends from the Ancestral Health Symposium last month named Bill Staley and Hayley Mason (authors of an upcoming new cookbook in October 2011 I’ll be sharing more about soon called Make It Paleo: Over 200 Grain Free Recipes For Any Occasion) have an awesome Beef Tongue Taco Bites recipe. The sky truly is the limit!

Other than the novelty of eating a tongue, are there any nutritional benefits to consuming tongue? Absolutely! A 3-ounce serving has 19g fat and 16g protein with zero carbs. The protein in the cow tongue specifically helps to produce vital hormones and enzymes for your body as well as build lean muscle. Cow tongue is also and excellent source of Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins. Zinc is another valuable mineral provided by the cow tongue which is merely a bonus on top of all the delicious meat you get to enjoy. So what was my first experience with cooking and preparing a cow tongue like? I took lots of pictures so you can relive it with me.

I can’t say I wasn’t a little creeped out by what I placed on my cutting board. My local farmer who I purchased the tongue from actually had TWO tongues processed and wrapped for me (at an affordable cost of around $11) and they were frozen solid. That required me to refrigerate them so I could get one of them defrosted to cook. When they were frozen together, everything was hard as a rock. But pulling out one of the tongues after being thawed was a bit surreal. Here’s what it looked like:

OMG, this a TONGUE! After getting over the heebie jeebies of that coarse tongue and blob of what would ostensibly be the meat I’d be consuming, it wasn’t so bad. But here’s a close-up of the tongue itself where you can see the prickliness of it:

I put the tongue in my crock pot, filled it up with water to submerge the tongue, and added in some Celtic salt, fresh garlic cloves and other spices. The broth this created by the next morning after letting it cook on low overnight (about 8-9 hours) actually looked pretty good:

Pulling the tongue out of the broth and placing it in a bowl, it really wasn’t much to look at. What is that alien creature in my kitchen:

Taking a sharp knife out of my drawer, I carefully started slitting down the middle of the tongue which peeled away surprisingly easily to reveal some luscious and tender meat that had been cooking in my crock pot overnight:

Using a fork, I was able to get most of the meat gathered and put into a container for me to use in a recipe. Here’s the good stuff:

I was tempted to try to follow some recipe, but instead I took on the continued adventure of seeing what I could come up with. I mixed in some cumin, garlic, peppercorns, Celtic salt and other spices as well as some macadamia nut oil to the meat to see how it would taste. Because that combination brought a lot of heat to the dish, I attempted to temper that by adding in some fresh blueberries and country-scrambled eggs:

The meal was delicious and satisfying! All in all, my first experience with cow tongue was pretty good. Christine still hasn’t taken the plunge to eat it yet. She’s got the whole mental block that some of my Facebook friends above expressed. I wonder if I just served it to her and she didn’t know it was a tongue if she’d eat it like she would a pot roast. No doubt about it because the taste and texture is virtually identical. Oh well, if she doesn’t have any, that just means more for me. And I’ve got another beef tongue waiting to be cooked. Maybe this next one I’ll pop in the Sous Vide Supreme. We shall see.

How about you? Have you eaten a cow’s tongue before? Why or why not? If you haven’t, then what is holding you back? If you have, what were your impressions of it. I’d love to hear what you think! Share your thoughts in the comments section below. This is but the first of my adventures in “odd bits” that I’ll be blogging about. I’m not sure what I’ll take on next, but you can be certain I’ll blog about it when I do.

  • Newell Wright

    We just bought a quarter of a grass fed steer, and I got all the offal no one else wanted (heart, kidney, tongue, liver, etc.). So thanks for the idea about cooking the tongue. I will probably do it in the near future.

    • Anonymous

      I was pleasantly surprised.

    • Anonymous

      I was pleasantly surprised.

  • Dan Brown

    I love beef tongue, especially slices (from the tip almost to the root). I used to enjoy them in a sandwich with mustard. It is a very popular offering in NYC delis — more expensive even (usually) than corned beef and pastrami sandwiches.

    Another favorite of mine is lamb kidneys cooked in butter (previously with hominy grits and lamb kidney gravy), or veal kidneys sauteed in onions and mushrooms — the latter Rognons de Veau.

    Thanks for the tip on Jennifer McLagen’s latest book. I used the link in your blog to pre-order a copy through Amazon.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Dan and enjoy! 😉

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Dan and enjoy! 😉

  • I like to think I’d be able to give tongue a try, but I’m pretty sure I’d need some friends there to egg me on. Thinking about it weirds me out.

    • Anonymous

      I hear ya Michael. Christine is the same way.

      • pam

        tongue is delicious.
        except i don’t know how to cook it.
        we have it sliced (Chinese or Japanese cooking)
        when it’s served, it looks just like the muscle meat (a little more chewy)
        (Americans are missing a lot! in other parts of the words, these “unwanted” parts can be more $$$$)

        cheers,

        • Anonymous

          I was surprised I got two tongues for $11.

  • Tara Grant

    I ate tongue once as a child; I was visiting my Nana in England and she said she had a special surprise for dinner. She wouldn’t tell us what it was, just that it was meat of some sort. My brother and I sat down to the table, very excited, and tried the dish she had prepared (she just had to reassure us it wasn’t dog or something first) and literally gagged on the meat. It was horrible. The texture was disgusting, chewy, rubbery. I couldn’t even get one bite down, and believe me, I tried. When she told us what it was, it made perfect sense: it tasted like you would think a tongue would taste. Nasty.
    However, upon further reflection as an adult, I think my Nana was just a horrible cook. Your dish doesn’t look very appetizing either (no offense, it was an experiment after all) but I think it may be time for me to try my hand at overcoming my aversion to what looks like very tender, delicious meat.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Tara! Cooking it low and slow helps tenderize it immensely. And while it may not look that good, it tasted good. 😉 Try it girl.

  • Sonya

    Tongue is one of Jimmy Fallon’s dishes and both were in one of the Top Chef episodes.  They even wrote a song about it, Jimmy: http://kirstencoachman.com/2011/02/15/top-chef-all-stars-beef-tongue-beef-tongue/ 

    I’d love to try it, but like Christine, not sure if I could get past the idea of what it is.  I bought turtle soup one time wanting to try it but ended up chickening out.  Good on ya trying something new!  Can’t wait for the next podcast with Jennifer McLagan! 

    • Anonymous

      It wasn’t easy, but I’m glad I tried it. Let’s start a tongue revolution. Jennifer will be back on very soon.

  • sorry, but those up close and personal photos were freaking me out! that puts it right up there with maggot cheese and deep-fried tarantulas – I just can’t do it.

    • Anonymous

      Not even close dude.

  • Misty Humphrey

    I have tasted beef tongue.  On my local taco truck they refer to it as “lingua”.  I was apprehensive because of the “thought of the organ” of course but I was surprised at how tender it was. 

    I only tasted and wouldn’t order it because I know where their meat comes from.  However, after seeing your awesome post Jimmy, I think I’ll sneak this one past the Mr. Husband!

    • Anonymous

      Trying to see how to get Christine to try it.

  • Illuminarellc

    Used to eat pickled beef tongue sandwiches *with mustard* as a kid.  Interestingly enough, it was considered a “poor person’s” food and once we kids got old enough, we never ate it again. And still don’t know if I could to this day . . .

    • Anonymous

      It is an inexpensive cut of meat.

  • Digger

    I remeber an episode of “All In The Family” where Edith made cow’s tongue for dinner and Archie wouldn’t eat it.  He said “Edith, I’m not eating anything that came out of a cow’s mouth! Go make me a couple of eggs instead.”

    • Anonymous

      One of my Facebook friends shared this on my wall…BWHAHAHAHA!

  • Howard Lee Harkness

    @Digger — Nuts. You beat me to it.

    • Anonymous

      It still counts Howard. 😉

  • Nina

    That looks like pulled pork.  Great post.  Many thanks.

    Nina

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Nina! It does have a certain BBQ pulled pork look to it.

      • Nina

        Jimmy you are great.  So many people just plug away on one theme.  You keep digging and trying different roads, always open to new ideas.  You don’t sound like a tired salesman. 

        Great resource.  Many thanks.

        Nina

        • Anonymous

          THANKS Nina! Never a dull moment. :)

  • Chava5706

    LOL!! Your tongue meat looks really odd to me!  I grew up in my Polish-Jewish grandmother’s house, and tongue was a regular..it was a cheap meat back then.  She cooked it up like a corned beef, with the pickeling spices; and it cooked all day, and the whole house smelled.
    It was eaten sliced in approx. 1/8th inch slices, so they came off the tongue as nice round slices, very tender, and very good.  I’ve never seen anything done to tongue like what you did to it!!  LOL again!

    • Anonymous

      I’m a tongue newbie.

  • Orea de Sa’Hana

    My mom used to cook and serve tongue, and I remember well the mild pleasant flavor it had.  I’ve only cooked one once, a year or two ago.  I didn’t shred it with a fork, just peeled it and sliced it.  If you want a traditional recipe (not what my mom made!), Check out tacos de lengua.  Next time, don’t tell your wife what it is until she’s tasted it! 

    And by the way, Jimmy, have you tried beef heart yet?  It’s one of my favorite things ever!  I clean it up, slice it thinly across the grain, toss it with seasoned flour and fry it in the fat of my choice.  I’ve been using Carbalose flour, but want to try some others.  I truly adore it, and it was my dad’s favorite, too.  It’s chewier and has more flavor than tongue, but not at all like liver.   It has a flavor all its own. 

    Keep posting about your food adventures.  I am ready to try something new!

    • Anonymous

      Beef heart is on my list of things to try. 😉

  • I grew up with my mother cooking tongue and pressing it, then serving it cold in salads or sandwiches. So I knew it looked fairly freaky.
    Here’s a link to a recipe for tongue on our website.
    http://bit.ly/ncV6HU

    • Anonymous

      Wicked!

  • Hi, Jimmy!  I also have a cow tongue in my freezer, which I have pushed aside for some time now.  Your post has given me the courage to at least consider bringing it out and cooking it.  I know Howard won’t have a problem with it – he’ll eat anything that doesn’t get up and run away :),  but the mental picture of that tongue is a bit off-putting.

    One thing that has helped me to consider going ahead and cooking it is that I think it’s somewhat disrespectful to the animal to ask him to give his life for me and then throw away some of the nourishing parts.  I feel like, since I bought the whole steer, I should use all that was delivered to me.  It has helped me, seeing the pictures you took. Thanks, Jimmy!

    • Anonymous

      Awesome Georgene! Lemme know how it goes.

  • Wow, you are jumping in with both feet Jimmy!  It took me longer to warm up to offal, but so far we have tried tongue, heart, kidney’s and I even cooked a big honkin’ pigs head:
    http://followingmynose.blogspot.com/2011/08/finally-what-to-do-with-pigs-head.html

    The tongue had the most intense beefy flavor, but I let it get too cool before peeling and that made it a real chore.  To me, beef heart is as good or better than most steaks I have had…love it!  I’ll be interested in seeing if you like it too.

    • Anonymous

      I’ve heard good things about beef heart. We shall see.

  • Exceptionally Brash

    The first time I tried beef tongue, it was at a party.  It was served thinly sliced with horseradish.  My host had many unusual foods in the Russian style.  I remember being quite impressed by the whole affair.

    • Anonymous

      If it’s done right, the meat is quite enjoyable.

  • That’s intense Jimmy!  congrats

    • Anonymous

      Better than you’d think.

  • DeputyHeadmistress

    I love tongue. It’s so incredibly tender and rich tasting.  This year I also started cooking beef heart. My first adventure with it is here. I’ve done oxtail, too, and would like to try kidney next.

    • Anonymous

      I’ll dive into other parts soon enough. :)

  • Anonymous

    I know…it’s funny how skittish people get when they’ll down an Oscar Meyer wiener no problem.

  • marilynb

    Ya know, if it’s just like pot roast, I’ll stick with pot roast. :)

    • Anonymous

      Suit yourself. It’s more tender than any pot roast I’ve ever eaten! :)

  • BarbroLind1948

    Jimmy-In Sweden we make sliced lunchmeat out of cow’s tongue. It is sliced really thin (the tip of the tongue) and is quite salty. It is one of our most treasured lunchmeats.
    Barbro

    • Anonymous

      Wicked!

  • Andrea Richards

    Momere, do you know what proportions your butcher used? I’m about to but a  meat grinder for my kitchen-aide mixer and want to do this!(commercial ground beef gives me the creeps more than organ meats ever will, pink slime, ewww)

    Jimmy about Christine my advice is to  to add a lot of spice to it and make tacos (lettuce shells)>I’m ok with it, but I’m more of a steak girl,  tender long cooked meat on its own, even pot roast is too mushy, unless i spice it up a lot and incorporate in something  else. 

    • Anonymous

      Already did make it spicy. 😀

  • calverlee

    Hi from uk. We buy pork and ox tongue on the deli counter of cooked meat. This is perfectly normal and no one thinks it strange. I have started cooking and pressing my own as i dont want the additives. My butcher cures the tongue for me which greatly improves the flavour. Then i boil it for 3 hrs changing the water twice. Peel it as soon as you can handle it and cut off any fatty bits. Curl it round and force it into a tight fitting container. Place a weight on top and pour out any excess fluid . Refrigerate and you have a wonderful joint of cold meat for slicing. Easy, cheap and delicious. Its just meat after all !!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you!

  • Bettywineugene

    My parents used to eat deer and elk tongue.  I never had the nerve to even try it and to this day, some 60 years later, I still won’t!   They thought it was quite a treat.  They were very frugal and nothing edible in the wild game was thrown away!   

  • Smilingcalico74

    I’m always game to try new things, but somehow had managed to avoid tongue, till a couple weeks ago. Those were some of the best tacos I ever ate! I rushed to the store to pick one up for myself…till I saw how expensive it was, $5.99/lb. I’ll pass until I can find it on sale.

    • Anonymous

      Try to get it from a local farmer…$10 for two of them.

  • Per Wikholm

    Cow toungue is traditional X-mas food in Sweden. Every high quality restaurant have it on their X-mas smorgasbord. We often cook it ourself in our family, year around.

    But besides that – on the immorality of only eating certain parts of the animal: The USDA (and the Swedish Food Administration) dietery guideline says that you should only eat low fat chicken breast – what then happens to the rest of the chicken? Well some of it will become animal feed turning chicken into cannibals and herbivoric cows into omnivores. In Europe chicken wings will be dumpted (with huge export subzeedies) on the African market, making local chicken farmers go broke.

    • Anonymous

      Fascinating.

  • Anonymous

    Cool!

  • Lebutler3

    love tongue burritos – cant get them here in redding – but when i lived in san francisco – that was my favorite!

  • Dave Boothman

    The cultural taboos are really quite humorous.  My Grandmother would always prepare tongue for Christmas.  The Christmas Day evening meal was always Tongue and ham salad.  At perhaps eight years old I must have  already become a bit of a food aficionado and would ask for all tongue and no ham, only to be told we are not rich folk and we had to make do with some ham.  Now living in rural Georgia I can still get access to these delicacies since we are a bit behind the times and the culture and food has not yet degraded significantly.  Our local old fashioned meat processor in the backwoods produces many things Grandma would have relished, particular good is the head cheese made from pickled tongue together with many other bits and pieces such as ears and jowls; a coarse pate to shame any Frenchman’s offering .  As she used to say the only thing you can’t eat from a pig is the squeak.  On this subject what happened to bacon, when I look at it in stores it has no skin, or rind as we call it?  Shameful  looking stuff.  What I get from my source is salt cured, rind on and three times as thick, and the skin is the tastiest part.  When is the rebellion against fake food going to start?