Thursday, May 3, 2007


I'm not Pennsylvania Dutch, although a lot of people thing I am. I guess people figure I am due to the combination of where I live and that my last name looks kinda Germanish. I really enjoy certain PA Dutch specialties - like broasted chicken, dried corn, and ham loaf.

But there's always been one that I've never had an opportunity. Luckily, there's one particular friend of mine who grew up on eating it regularly.

What am talking about?
Beef tongue. Yup, you read that correctly, tongue from a cow. As anyone who's heard of scrapple knows, the PA Dutch don't waste anything, so they of course they have found ways to prepare the tongue.

So when our grossed out wives were out of town, I had the honor of having my buddy's mom prepare pot roasted beef tongue. I'm using links to pictured this time because I know it's not the prettiest thing to look at, certainly not as universally appetizing as Moravian sugar cake. I didn't arrive until it was almost ready, but my hosts were kind enough to snap some photos along the way.

Here's how it looks all packaged up.
At $2.99 lb, this one came in at just over 3 lbs from Shady Maple

OK, not so scary looking eh? Looks kinda like a pork loin.
Apparently, it only takes some unwrapping for it to look just like a tongue again.

Again, being the ever thoughtful hosts, they thought it a good idea to take a nice shot of it all stretched out and beautiful.
You can see how nice and pink it was, and has the USDA stamp of approval!!! Would it meet my approval? Keep reading to find out.

How does one cook a beef tongue? I'm sure it varies, but my friends cook it up just like a pot roast - a very big and dense pot roast. Here it is as it begins the cooking process - in a pot - with some herbs. Not sure what they are or if there was any other unusual pre-cooking prep, hopefully one of my hosts will let us know in a comment.

The cook time was about 3.5 hours, which sounded pretty standard. I arrived just about as it was done, and I can tell you it did not stink like I expected it to. For some reason, I expected it to smell different, maybe like organ meat sometimes can smell, or perhaps have a gamey odor. Not at all, it smelled like pot roast cooking.

As you'll see in the rest of the pics, that's exactly what it was - a nice pot roast. Here's what it looked like being prepped for the table. The tongue has a skin that must be removed - this part took a bit of labor from my buddy's dear mother. According to her, this one came off pretty easily. Once it a while it's a little tuff.
One more comment on this picture. I found it to be a rather interesting juxtaposition that a Borg was watching the process. The red-head thought he looked to be smiling slightly in anticipation. Or should I say - they were smiling. After eating this tongue, I've been assimilated into PA Dutch culture. Think about it. I guess there's more depth to that joke for some people, so don't worry if you don't get it. As you might guess, my friend is a Trekker.

Anyway, here's a shot of the tongue being sliced. Thisone didn't show up to well, but it should re-enforce how much this dish really is like roast beef.

Finally, we sat down at the table, with a few simple side dishes. Actually, the macaroni salad was great. This being my fist experience with tongue, mimicked the experts and ate mine the same way. I'm guessing this is kinda like any other special meal, with each household having their favorite method. We made sandwiches out of ours. A couple of sliced of tongue, a drizzle of vinegar, and some ketchup between two sliced of home-made bread.

It really was delicious. An excellent meal clearly planned and prepared with care and detail. I had seconds.

Before I describe what it tastes like, here are just a few thoughts on possible prep and serving alternatives. Starting from the final plating working backwards.

I don't normally eat ketchup on roast beef, so in the long run, I probably would go with a different condiment for a tongue sandwich - perhaps a mild mustard? The vinegar was a nice compliment though.
In the final prep, not sure what else I would do, looks like the skin was way too tuff to eat, and probably would not taste very good. It was sliced at the perfect thickness, particularly given how tender it was. The chef had a pretty steady carving hand as well.

As for the actual preparation: One thing I might try, would be to stick a little closer to my household's pot roast method - perhaps using the drippings to make a gravy or sauce of some sort. This would obviously alter the final plating and sides to include mashed taters and the gravy. I think a thin gravy would have tasted great on that nice tender meat.
We talked about the possibility of smoking it, but I think it would just fall apart after 12 hours in the smoker. What do you all think? Smoking is often used to make tuff meats tender - beef tongue doesn't need that.
I saw a few web sites where the tongue was pealed and sliced about 1/4 inch raw, then lightly breaded and pan-fried like a cutlet. I bet that's awfully good. If anyone out there has had this, I'd love to hear your method.

The bottom line on beef tongue is this... It tastes like roast beef because it is roast beef. No, that's an over-simplified statement. It's like an extremely tender roast beef. Easily more tender than any roast I've ever had. If I had not been told what I was eating, I would have asked how they got it so tender without being stringy - which roast beef tends to be, even at it's best. If you think about it, that makes sense. The tongue is a muscle, just like any other cut of meat. So it's not going to taste like liver or kidneys or sweetbreads or any of the other unusual parts that are eaten by the semi-adventurous.

It probably helped a great deal for me to enjoy beef tongue that this preparation turned out so well. My hosts were clearly eager for me to try it and seemed pleased that I really liked it. Thanks again to them. Hopefully, this post will persuade a few people out there to try something that might otherwise put them off. My advice? Find someone who knows what they are doing and follow their lead!


Kate said...

We did a beef tongue in culinary school....ugh, just the sight of it on the counter was enough to make me turn away. The smell as it cooked was very pungent and I couldn't even swallow the one bite I tried. Just the idea of eating that, along with other offal, simply turns me green.

I will read of your adventure and commend your spirit. Somebody's gotta do it.

petunia said...

dear Lord, that second picture and the picture of it all stretched out made me gag! I hope it tastes mother used to eat this in her younger days...she's Dutch (I guess it's just a thing)...she also ate you like brains?

The "Trekker" said...

Speaking on behalf of your other hosts, we are very glad you enjoyed it. To answer your specific questions first: the tongue was washed and scrubbed vigorously with a vegetable brush prior to cooking. It was then simply tossed into a pot of water with some frozen parsley.

Being of Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, we are not known for our use of fancy spices or sauces. Parsley with vinegar and ketchup is about as exotic as it gets!

I'm glad you were willing to try this little piece of PA Dutch culture. I guess this means that conch is the only thing left on the list of foods I've eaten but you haven't!