Fergus Henderson: Lamb’s Tongues, Turnips, and Bacon

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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

Step one

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.

Step two

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.

Diane Kennedy’s Tongue in Oaxacan Sauce (Estofado de Lengua)

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from The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, pp. 293-94.

For reasons I only slightly relate to, the tongue recipes I’ve posted are some of the least popular on my blog. Despite the fact that tongue is one of the most tender parts of any animal, most people I know recoil from the opportunity to cook one. Just goes to show how ethnically limited my social circles are, I suppose. I have to admit it takes getting used to handling a fresh beef or lamb tongue. The shape and texture of the skin is very evocative of its source. There’s no chance of detachment when preparing to cook a tongue.

I got over it. And now here is another selection from Diane Kennedy’s classic cookbooks, re-edited into one volume. I suspect her recipes and notes have not been updated, because I found a food processor dealt with the grinding better than my blender, although the cost of switching fromĀ  one to the other emerged in the grainy sauce that resulted. This recipe also made me better aware of the merits of lard.

But the recipe is pretty straightforward:

Serves 6 to 8

A 5-pound (2.25-kg) fresh beef tongue

1 small white onion, roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

8 peppercorns

salt to taste

The sauce:

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

6 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil

2 ancho chiles, wiped clean, seeds and veins removed

2 oz (60 g) unskinned almonds — a good 1/3 cup (85 ml)

1 small dry tortilla, broken into pieces

Shadowcook: Perhaps it doesn’t matter, but I wish Kennedy had specified whether she meant a flour or corn tortilla. I used what I had: corn tortillas.

1/2 cup (125 ml) tongue broth or water

1/8 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, preferably Oaxacan

6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried

6 sprigs fresh majoram or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1/2-inch (1.5 cm) piece of cinnamon stick, crushed

2 pounds (900 g) tomatoes, finely chopped (about 5 1/3 cups/1.3 L)

salt to taste

1/2 cup (125 ml) pitted green olives

Put the tongue into a saucepan with the onion, garlic, peppercorns, and salt. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the tongue is tender — about 3 hours. Let the tongue cool in the broth, and as soon as it it cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin. Strain the broth and return the tongue to the broth. Keep warm.

Shadowcook: The tongue I prepared weighed about 3 1/2 lbs, smaller than what she calls for. Even still, the only pot big enough to accommodate the tongue and enough water to cover it was my stock pot.

Toast the sesame seeds in a skillet over low heat, stirring them and shaking the pan from time to time until they are a deep golden color — take care not to let them burn — about 5 minutes.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the lard in a small skillet and fry the chiles over medium heat for about 1/2 minute on each side — the inside flesh should turn the color of tobacco. Drain and set aside.

Shadowcook: Actually, I think 2 tablespoons would have been enough. I used my 10-inch cast iron skillet and found 3 tablespoons an abundant amount for the chiles, almonds and tortilla shreds.

In the same lard, fry the almonds over medium heat, turning them and skaing the pan until they turn a darker color. Drain and crush them well (so as not to strain the blender).

In the same lard, fry the tortilla pieces for a few minutes until crisp. Drain and set aside.

Shadowcook: My blender and then my food processor had no problems handling the almonds. The tortilla shreds, however, made the machine jump!

Put the 1/2 cup (125 ml) tongue broth or water into the blender jar, add the dried herbs and spices, and blend as smooth as possible. Gradually add the chiles, tomatoes, sesame seeds, almonds, and tortillas, blending thoroughly after each addition.

Shadowcook: The amount of broth didn’t seem enough to make the pureeing easy, which is partly why I transferred it all from the blender to the food processor. True, the sauce did not come out smooth. But I would not have gotten much further if I had increased the amount of liquid in the blender. And I didn’t mind the grittiness. I used roma tomatoes, which may also explain why I needed more liquid.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons lard in a heavy pan, add the sauce, and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan from time to time to avoid sticking. Stir in salt to taste. The sauce should be of medium consistency and lightly cover the back of a wooden spoon. Add broth to dilute if necessary.

Shadowcook: Again, 3 tablespoons seemed like a lot. I tried to figure out the point of this cooking process. To cook the tomatoes? Maybe. 10 minutes isn’t very long. The flavor of the raw tomatoes brightened the sauce. To reduce the amount of liquid? Well, there wasn’t much to start with? To intensify the flavors? Yes, I suppose so, but in the end the sauce had a fresh, slightly sweet flavor to it. Now I know ancho chiles favor sweet spices. At this stage, be sure to check the salt. I found it needed more.

Drain the tongue and cut into thick slices. Arrange on a large platter in one slightly overlapping layer and cover with most of the sauce. Sprinkle the top with the olives and serve immediately. Pass the rest of the sauce separately.

Note: This dish can be prepared several hours, even a day, ahead and reheated. Leftovers can also be frozen sucessfully.

Shadowcook: The sauce did not much resemble the other Mexican chili sauces I’ve made out of this book and Rick Bayless’s. The almonds made a difference, I think. I liked it so much that I may use the remainder for another kind of meat, like pork.

Lamb Liver with Sauteed Onions

There are advantages to liking organ meat. For one thing, when you’ve got generous friends who raise their own beef and lamb, you’re more likely to receive all the bits of animal they and others don’t want. Yesterday, my friends Dan and Sherry dropped off at my house fresh liver and tongues from their slaughter of lamb the day before. With distaste, Sherry gingerly handed the plastic bags filled with gore. I was in heaven. Last night, I prepared the liver. Tonight, the lamb tongues.

Italy has deeply conditioned me to prefer liver prepared either by pan-searing or grilling slices. Unless, of course, that is, I’m in France. But that’s a whole other story. With the lamb liver, I decided to adapt Marcella Hazan’s fegato alla veneziana.

I found handling the fresh lamb liver very instructive. Its color was a dark mauve, a dense purple that in no way resembled the brownish burgundy color of chicken or beef liver I see in stores. The texture of the raw liver reminded me of panna cotta — silky, firm, and smooth. It had very few little bits of fat and membrane to snip off.

To prepare it, I carved the livers into slices about 1/4-inch thick. Then I cut up a big onion (one picked out of the ground the day before at Rosamaria’s ranch — oh, the joys of having friends who garden and ranch!) into thin slices. In a large, heavy skillet, I poured about 2 Tbls of olive oil and warmed it on a medium-low flames. When it was warm, I added the onions, spread them evenly around the skillet, set the timer for 10 mins, and left them undisturbed until the ten minutes were up. I stirred them around and set the timer again for 10 mins. And then another.

This is my way of caramelizing onions — leave them be as much as possible on a low heat. It takes patience, but it’s worth it.

Once the onions had softened and slightly caramelized (I could have left them much longer), I took them out of the pan, stuck them on a plate and put them in the oven to keep warm. Then I poured another slug of olive oil in the skillet and turned up the heat. When the oil was hot, I lay slices of liver in. They cook pretty quickly. I think it’s important not to cook liver too much, so it’s good to stand right by it and watch the color change. Liver browns very easily. As the slices finished — about 1 minute or so aside — I put the slices one by one on the plate with onions in the oven to keep them warm. When I’d finished them all, I ground pepper over them and salted the onions

For wine, I chose a bottle of Goose Ridge Red Table Wine, which turned out to be a good choice. It’s a big wine, lots of raspberry, as well as chocolate undertones.