An observation: When you cut grains, there’s still something else that takes their place as the “eat it at every meal” regular. Suddenly eggs are popping in multiple times a day, potatoes become a staple, and almonds are needed for just about everything, including a handful for a snack.
Since one of the theories about the increase in gluten intolerance is that we eat it too often, I have to admit that I was surprised to realize that if we didn’t consume gluten/grains, we would be eating something else too often, perhaps.
For some variety during our grain-free Lent, I decided to cook up the beef tongue that’s been in my freezer since December.
Okay, variety might not have really been my motivation. Honestly? I felt the pressure to give it a go since writing this organ meats challenge (in a good way), and I had it around because it was free with my 1/16 of a cow. (Friendly beef buying tip: ask your farmer if there are extra organs lying around. Most people don’t want them, so you can snatch them up with your purchase, making it a frugal deal!)
I was really lucky that a house showing messed up my meal plan, after I had completed the first step and posted on Facebook that I was going to cook the cow tongue. I had planned on making a sort of stir fry with sliced tongue, but I was so glad I got to read how others cook tongue first. (See the conversation here.) I went with fajita style, an excellent choice if I do say so myself.
How to Make Beef Tongue Fajitas
Cook’s note: you may not need to follow every single step included here. It’s possible that I may have inserted some opinion and jest into these instructions. Reader beware…
- Open the package of tongue.
- Stare at the tongue.
- Imagine it in a cow’s mouth…then quickly smack yourself and don’t ever think about that again.
- Hold up the cow tongue and ask your kids what part of the cow they think it might be from. (Mine guessed “ear” first and then “head”.)
- Offer to them the opportunity to feel the cow tongue. They will be fascinated and take you up on it for sure. It’s very bumpy and a little slimy. Super cool if you’re a 5-year-old boy or his sister who follows in his every footstep.
- Pretend to eat your children with the tongue. This will cause the 2-year-old to scream, but you and the older brother can have a good laugh.
- Rinse the tongue. That just seemed like a good idea.
- Wash your kids’ hands.
- Boil the tongue for a few hours until it’s done. I made beef stock at the same time and simply chucked the tongue in there, then took it out and let the stock continue cooking (it goes for 1-3 days!). “Done” tongue looks like this:
- Allow the tongue to cool. If you can plan it so that it has time in the fridge before you have to address it, all the better.
- Peel the tongue. This is nothing like peeling an orange, nor a potato, and a little like peeling the dead skin off the bottom of your feet after a long, moist day…except that it’s thicker and bumpier. Don’t eat the taste buds. Peel the tongue. It’s not difficult at all.
- Slice the tongue into fajita sized pieces as shown above. Do this before your husband comes home. Do not let your husband see the tongue in its entirety. Ever.
- Saute sliced peppers and onions in fat as you would for fajitas. Add the sliced tongue and an appropriate amount of taco seasoning (or fajita seasoning, or chipotle, adobo…whatever floats your boat).
- Shred the tongue as well as possible. I have a cool Pampered Chef doo-dad that does a great job of this in the pan, but you may need to use two forks, a mini food processor, or some other ingenuous invention to shred the tongue.
- This is a really terrible photo of the meat pre-seasoning, but imagine it looks less washed out and quite tasty…albeit a bit gray-ish:
- Serve in homemade tortillas, or, if you’re on a grain-free or gluten-free or low-carb kick, just make it a fajita salad with spicy dressing and salsa like so:
Here is the most important step: know when to keep your mouth shut!
I knew my husband wouldn’t be exactly receptive to the idea of eating tongue. He knew it was down there in the freezer, and he made awful faces whenever I mentioned it. I had told the kids that we weren’t going to tell Daddy exactly what we were eating until after the meal, but we had a little joke that included wiggling our tongues with a “blablabla” sound. The 5-year-old thought it was hilarious; the 2-year-old immediately ran to tell Daddy what we were having for dinner!
Luckily, she is not the most reliable messenger, and to my great delight, he did not understand what she was trying to tell him.
After he hungrily devoured the salad for a few minutes, I couldn’t bear it any longer. I asked him what kind of beef he thought we were eating. It took him a while to get the “blablabla” thing while our son laughed his head off, but when he did, he slammed down his fork and pushed the bowl away.*
It was a case of mind over matter, and his mind was winning. And he was a little bit perturbed with me.
With much cajoling, he choked down his dinner (I played the “good example for the children” card and everything). But there was no way he was touching the leftovers, which, unlike leftover liver which tastes more “liver-y” by the day, were excellent.
Let this be a lesson to you: even if your husband will eat fireflies on purpose to show off for his friends, that doesn’t mean he can wrap his mind around tongue and embrace the idea of it on his plate. Unless he asks directly, don’t fess up until the leftovers are completely gone. It’s just beef, and that’s not a lie.
Now I wonder what I’m going to do with the other slices that are in my freezer!?!
*Author’s note: my husband is a very mild-mannered, easy-to-get-along-with, mellow man. He is a great father who rarely raises his voice and usually provides good examples for our kids. He is not violent and typically only slams things down when the Michigan State Spartans are playing pathetically. I may have been a little zealous with the whole “slamming the fork down” thing, but it makes for an awfully good story, right? I just wanted to clarify so no one worried about the psychological health of our family. Believe me, I throw more “adult fits” than this man. He just wasn’t happy about tongue. And I’m okay with that.
Slow Cooker Adaptation
To cook a tongue in a slow cooker, think about it like a roast. If you have a favorite roast recipe, just do it with tongue – but remember you have to peel the tongue, so you might need to adjust when you put in the seasonings so you don’t peel them all off.
Here’s what I’ve done:
- Place the tongue with a cup or so of water in a slow cooker.
- Cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours.
- Remove tongue, peel, and slice/shred.
- Return to slow cooker with desired amount of taco seasoning or cumin/chili powder blend. Use the amount of taco seasoning you’d need for the weight of your tongue – two packets or equivalent homemade blend for a 2-pound tongue, for example. If your seasoning is unsalted, adding salt is a good idea too, at least a 1/2 teaspoon or more.
- Add a sliced onion and some sliced peppers (for fajitas if desired) and stir it all up, then cook on low another 1-3 hours. If it seems too watery, you can serve with a slotted spoon, toss it in a frying pan for a few minutes to sort of crisp it up, or add some arrowroot starch (1-3 Tbs.), stir and wait 15 minutes to thicken a bit.
- Serve like any fajitas…and mum’s the word on origin. It’s called “beef fajitas,” remember?
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