Cooking Without the Cow

I have a dairy allergy. I digest it well enough but it gives me a headache, which is not fun. I do use a little butter, especially in baking, because margarine scares me. Cheese is such a prevalent ingredient in even vegetarian offerings that I have had to experiment with different dishes to come up with some staples that will work for my family. I hope you enjoy them, too!

Sunday, January 31, 2010


I entitled this post in Spanish because it doesn't sound as creepy as it does in English. Tongue. I clearly remember having what I now know was pickled tongue as a teenager and naively thinking that "tongue" was a strange name for a cut of meat. By the time I learned that it was an actual cow's tongue, I already liked it. Kind of like this post. Here I am, talking about a cow's tongue on a blog that is about cooking with no assistance from a cow. But, I figure, no one's likely reading it but me, so I'll just post about what I've been cooking. Which, in this case, is tongue.

Cooking a tongue for tacos or sandwiches is ridiculously easy. It has a mild, beefy flavor and a crazy-tender texture when cooked properly. It's a little off-putting at first because, unlike most cuts of meat, it looks exactly like what it is. You just have to divorce yourself from it by thinking about how tasty the end product is, wash it, put it in the pot and forget about it for a while. It can be cooked on the stove for a few hours or in a pressure cooker for 40 minutes plus cooling time. Either way, you peel and quarter two onions, add a tablespoon of peppercorns, a handful of dried bay leaves and a tablespoon of garlic salt to the tongue in a pressure cooker or large pot with a lid, along with enough water to cover. Cover with the lid, bring the pot to a boil over medium high heat, lower to simmer, set the timer and walk away.

I use the pressure cooker to save time as well as fuel. After 40 minutes and time to let the pressure release naturally (or, after 3 hours on the stove in a conventional pot), wait until the meat is just cool enough to handle. (Sorry to say, there will be handling of the meat.) At this point, the skin of the tongue (yes, I know...) will come off very easily with a little help from a paring knife. Toss the skin into your organic trash and put the tongue back in the cooking water. When completely cool, the tongue can be sliced against the grain on the diagonal for sandwiches or diced for use in tacos. So good. Refrigerate leftovers in the cooking liquid. The fat will solidify on top and, when removed the next day, leaves a low fat, mildly-beefy broth for soup after the tongue is used up.

Now, on to the next, and more complicated ethnic preparation, the one that endeared tongue to me in the first place: pickled tongue. This basic recipe can be found on, among other places.

1 4-pound beef tongue
1/4 cup large-grained kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon paprika
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon saltpeter (optional)*

1. Wash and remove most of the fat from the tongue. Mix together all of the spices and the garlic and rub well into the tongue or brisket.

2. Dissolve the saltpeter in the warm water, if using, and pour over the meat. Place in a large, nonmetal container. Weight the meat down with a stone or brick and cover it with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. (You can also place the ingredients in a plastic bag and weight it down.) Refrigerate for 10 days to 2 weeks. Turn the meat every 2 to 3 days.

3. Place the meat in a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and throw away the water. Repeat this step 3 times.

4. Cover with cold water again, bring to a boil, and cook over low heat, covered, for about 2 hours or until tender. Peel off the skin while still warm. Cool, slice thin, and place on a platter. Serve with mustard or horseradish.

*Saltpeter (a.k.a. potassium nitrate) helps preserve the color and flavor of cured meat, and also inhibits the growth of Clostridium Botulinum, the bacteria that causes botulism. It is available in pharmacies and is part of the traditional recipe. I opt not to use it.


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