from The Whole Beast, pp. 94-95.
The bite in the morning air gives me license to start cooking with autumn in mind. When my friends delivered another cut-and-wrapped whole lamb, they handed me two baggies holding eight lamb tongues — precious cargo. Fergus Henderson’s cookbook seemed the logical place to look for a recipe that would do justice to the freshness and succulence of the tongues. I wasn’t wrong. His directions are not as transparent as I had hoped. Still, I was enchanted by this lamb tongue version of pot-au-feu. The bitter flavor of the turnips, borrowing depth from the kale, blended softly with the sweetness of the meat and the roasted shallots. And the flavor of bacon formed a sturdy canopy over the whole ensemble. Delicious broth. It would be even more restorative if I had waited about two months more to make it.
To serve four:
6 lamb’s tongues (give them a rinse with cold water)
Shadowcook: For those cooks who live an metropolitan areas, lamb tongues are easier to find than you might think. Find a halal or Middle Eastern grocery and look in their freezer section.
7 cups chicken stock
1 head of garlic, separated and peeled
a bundle of fresh thyme and parsley tied together
6 young turnips with healthy greens chopped off but kept (if no greens, rocket [arugula] makes a good substitute, or if you want something with more body, curle kale is delicious in this dish)
Shadowcook: I don’t know what large or small turnips in the UK usually are, but here I see only really big ones. I used three, peeled and cut into chunks. And to replace the turnip greens I added lacinato (otherwise known as dino or Tuscan) kale, stems cut out and chopped coarsely.
2 dollops of duck fat or unsalted butter
Shadowcook: Yea! I finally get to use my duck fat! Worth it, too.
16 shallots, peeled and left whole
1 1/4 pound piece of smoked streaky bacon, skinned and cut into chunks
Shadowcook: If you can’t find unsliced bacon, consider pancetta, although the spices might not suit the dish. I bought sliced bacon and found a pound and a quarter almost too much. Next time, I intend to use bacon or pancetta (with the spices wiped off) in chunks.
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
In a pot cover the lamb’s tongues with the chicken stock. Add the garlic and herbs, bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for approximately 2 hours, until the tongues are giving. Remove the tongues and allow to cool, just to a handleable temperature as they are much easier to peel when warm. While doing this cook your turnips in the stock.
Shadowcook: If the turnips are large, cut them into chunks. And peel the tongues are soon as possible once they are out of the stock. It’s true they are easier to peel when warm.
When cooked remove the turnips from the stock, take it off the heat, and return the peeled tongues to the cooling stock.
In an ovenproof frying pan, melt the duck fat or butter and fry the shallots just enough to color them, not burn them. Then pop them into a medium to hot 375 degree oven to roast for 15 minutes, again watching that they do not burn. When soft, sweet, and giving, remove them from the oven.
Now remove the tongues from the stock and slice them in half lengthwise.
Shadowcook: At this point, even though Fergus doesn’t call for it, strain the stock. That’s the one step I wish I had done when I ate the dish at the end of the process.
Heat a deep frying pan that has a lid, or a shallow saucepan. Melt a spot of duck fat, fry the bacon in this so as to slightly color it, add the tongue and turnips, allow these to color it, add the tongue and turnips, all these to color, then add the shallots and a healthy splash of the stock to half-cover the pan’s contents.
Shadowcook: At this point, the recipe becomes a bit imprecise. First of all, I had to use my big Le Creuset pot. The ingredients amount to more than any deep drying pan or saucepan I own can hold. It’s just too much. Which explains why my version turns out more like pot-au-feu than Fergus perhaps intended. I recommend using as much of the stock as comes half way up the ingredients and saving the rest for the next day when you eat the leftovers. The stock is too tasty to toss out.
Let this start to boil, add the greens and season with salt and pepper, then cover the pan and turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon remove the ingredients to a hot deep plate, then ladle some of the liquor in the pan over, making it as dry or as brothy as you wish. Just before eating sprinkle the dish with a little vinegar.
Just as delicious, if not more so, is to substitute fava beans for the turnips (these do not need to be cooked before the final stage). You still need the rocket or kale as the greens act as a structural weave in the dish.