Getting past the ick factor: Boiled Beef Tongue – a Fearless Friday Post

We haven’t done it for a while, but Fearless Fridays are where readers of this site share their culinary adventures. For some, it’s simply the act of preparing a meal in their home instead of hitting the drive through. For others it’s trying new foods, recipes, or techniques. It’s a chance to push against our boundaries and maybe discover new favorites. Not every attempt will be successful  but everyone is encouraged to share, if you wrote about it on your blog, post a link below. If not, just share in the comments.

How have you been fearless lately?  Tell us about it.

Bobbie says Bobbie says:

For over 25 years, my husband would, every so often, gently, and without much hope, ask if I would make beef tongue, so we could have cold tongue sandwiches, like his mom used to make. He would do this by pointing out a tongue in the store, or mentioning it was advertised on sale. I would respond, without fail, by immediately changing the subject, while trying to avoid cringing too visibly.

Now you know two things about me: 1) I’ve been married a really long time and 2) the idea of boiling a tongue really squicked me out. No, I mean really. Especially after I found out it involved peeling. A meat that you have to peel.

Well, it’d been a few years since he asked me, but eventually, it happened. My husband recently saw beef tongue on sale, in an advertisement for a butcher shop we like. And he, ever so casually, mentioned it to me. I did not say anything in reply, but did a little bit of self-talk instead. It went something like this:

You have cleaned and prepared squid, gutting it and fishing out that plastic-looking bit. For heavens’ sake, you have plucked and gutted freshly-killed chickens. You have not only changed countless diapers, but cleaned up after children who were being sick out both ends of their body. You tell people you’ll eat anything they serve as long as it’s not okra. You’ve killed rodents with a broom and a washing machine, and evicted snakes from the house. Repeatedly. You have cleaned men’s restrooms in several factories without batting an eye.* You most certainly can manage to cook and peel a tongue without fainting.

I had to admit, it was a good argument, but I didn’t completely believe me.

Still, I was determined to face my fears head-on. And? I was hoping Heather would let me use it to bring Fearless Fridays back to Home Ec 101 – so I could be all brave and determined kind of in public.

So…without telling my husband (in case I chickened out) I stopped by the butcher shop to buy the dreaded tongue, determined to cook it immediately. Unfortunately, it was frozen, so I had more time to think about it, which was…unhelpful to my determination. While it thawed, I found every reference to tongue in my cookbook collection, and armed myself with confidence. I was ready to rumble.

So, to paraphrase Zaphod Beeblebrox, “Let’s meet the meat.”**

Beef tongue in its unnatural habitat.

This was a two-pound beef tongue, shrink-wrapped and frozen. My books suggested a tongue no larger than 3 pounds. I got the impression that the larger they are, the tougher they can be. Once thawed, I slit the plastic (over the sink, in case it was messy) and removed it to a plate to pose for more pictures. There was a slit in the tongue, and I was unable to determine why. Bovine body piercing? The blue spots that look vaguely of tattoo is just an inspection stamp. They use food grade dyes for that, I’m pretty sure. 

hard core cow

 

Looking the tongue over, the red parts looked surprisingly like…beef. Go figure.

Then there were the not-red bits. Which looked like…a tongue. And felt rough, kind of like the wet sandpaperiness of a cat’s tongue, raised to the power of cow. I had to stop thinking about it at that point.

I’d found instructions that said to scrub the tongue with a brush, and to soak it in cold water for a couple hours, but it looked really clean and not bloody at all, so I merely rinsed it really well before it went into the pan.

 

Various seasonings were suggested by each source, from simple salt & pepper to an entire melange of aromatic vegetables and herbs. I opted for some of my basics for meat cookery. Onion, bay leaves, salt & peppercorns. I wanted to use white wine vinegar, but it was out, so I subbed some of the vinegar from a jar of pepperoncini, and threw in some of the pepperoncini as well. I added water to cover, and set it over high heat to bring it to a boil. It hadn’t quite reached the boiling point when the tongue was sticking up out of the water, and there was no room to add more. So, I switched to my stock pot, which I kind of knew I should’ve been using in the first place, but didn’t want to really wash the huge thing. So, instead I ended up having to wash it AND the deep skillet I shouldn’t have tried to use in the first place. Yep. *facepalm*

Anyway…brought it to a boil, reduced to simmer, and loosely covered…opinions varied on how long to cook it, so I was really unsure about this part. After about 3 1/2 hours, it seemed to be “tender enough” – which I determined by cutting into it with a sharp knife in the thickest part. Time to remove it to a plate to cool.

can a tongue stick its tongue out at you?

The tongue had stiffened up quite a lot, and the rough skin felt even rougher. Once it was cool enough to handle, I used my sharpest small knife to slit the skin on the underside. At this point, once the meat was cooked, the squick factor for me was reduced, but not entirely gone.

 

 

I’d assumed that it would peel away rather easily, but that was not the case. After it was slit, I took hold of the skin, trying to pull it off in one piece (as some sources said could be done) but it tore and only came away in small pieces. I had to use the knife to loosen more of it and keep pulling.

 

 

Once I’d pulled off all the rough skin, there still seemed to be a layer of skin on the tongue, which none of my cookbooks said anything about. It was softer, but still had tongue-like roughness. At this point I was pretty sure I’d done something wrong, but I still didn’t know what.

 

 

 

 

The remaining skin was even harder to remove – and in the end, I used my ceramic paring knife to carefully slice it away, revealing some very beefish-looking meat underneath. At last, it looked like something I could eat. Probably. Oh, and most of my sources said to cut away the roots. I didn’t know what that meant, specifically, and there didn’t seem to be anything that qualified, so I let that step go.

 

Once it was completely cool, I sliced it thinly to be used for cold sandwiches. And since I’d made it through the process without losing my lunch, I went ahead and made one for myself. I really wanted to use horseradish and ketchup (my favorite on cold roast beef) but the horseradish was out, just like the vinegar (time to go shopping) so I used ketchup, mild banana pepper rings, onion and lettuce, on a toasted roll.

Tastes like  chicken  roast beef.

 

After tasting the meat, which I liked, but the flavor was lacking, my husband and I are both pretty sure that I overcooked it. A lot. And that a good bit of the flavor ended up in the cooking water because of that. I think 2 hours is probably sufficient for a 2 pound tongue. That may have been a factor in making it harder to peel. Also, I think I let it cool too much before peeling. Next time (which will happen…..eventually) I’ll cook it about an hour per pound, and try to peel it while it’s still very very warm.

I was kind of proud of myself for getting over the squeamishness I’d so long associated with preparing tongue. There was nothing to fear, really, after all. It’s just meat from a different part of the cow, so I can handle it. But, I still won’t eat okra.

 

 

*I was a temp on a crew that cleaned the offices and restrooms of several industrial-type businesses in the city, after hours. As the fill-in person, I got restroom duty. I wish they had just let me take a firehose to some of them. Sheesh. Second-worst job I’ve ever had.

**Former president of the galaxy and quite the hoopy frood, in Douglas Adams’  The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (3rd book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. Required reading for geeks.)

 

Bobbie Laughman is an elder caregiver and freelance writer who isn’t afraid of spiders or snakes, but will kill to avoid eating okra. Send questions, comments or offers to help hide the bodies to Bobbie@Home-Ec101.com

Vegetable Beef Soup Recipe – Like Mom Used to Make

Bobbie says:

Have you ever caught a whiff of an unexpected scent that suddenly sent you back in time? Figuratively speaking, of course. The sense of smell is a huge memory trigger, and if there’s a smell that says “home” to me, it’s the comforting aroma of simmering Vegetable Beef Soup the way our mom used to make it. Packed with veggies and beefy bits, it’s a hearty full-meal soup perfect for cold winter days. Serve it alone, or paired with fresh-baked bread, it’s sure to warm the spirits as well as the tummies.

I didn’t get recipes for all the dishes my parents and grandparents used to make, but I’m thankful this is one I made certain to get written down before my chance had passed. When I asked her for the recipe, Mom said she’d give it to me next time she prepared it, because she didn’t think she’d remember everything unless she was doing it. So, she made the soup, telling me everything she did, so I could write it down. Some amounts were approximations, so I’ve had to work at it to get it to taste right. Mom always made it the day after we had a big pot roast, saving the leftover meat and all the meat juices to throw in the soup – which pretty much explains the nearly complete lack of beef gravy in family meals of our childhood. Chicken gravy? Yes. Beef? No. The meat stock always got saved for soup. But that’s okay: this soup is totally worth the trade-off.

To allow for room to stir and also to reduce the chance of boil-overs, I would suggest a 6 to 8 quart pot with a heavy bottom*. Thin bottomed pots will cook unevenly and are more likely to scorch and ruin your soup. (I make the mistakes so you don’t have to – just a public service I provide. Oh, and don’t try to pass off the burned soup as “Smokey Vegetable Beef Soup” – that doesn’t work, either.)  I prepare this in my 8 quart Tramontina stock pot, which I use for practically everything. Crockpot directions are also given, but if your slow cooker won’t hold at least 4 1/2 quarts, you’ll need to make a smaller batch.

When I was working to standardize this recipe, so it could be made as a standalone, rather than as a follow-up meal after pot roast, I decided to use beef shank cross-cuts, because I could obtain them at a fair price, and they’re great at yielding a lot of flavor, if you cook them right. Some stores label these “soup bones.” Feel free to use whatever cut of beef is cheapest – the long, slow cooking of soup-making is a great use for tough cuts of meat.

: Vegetable Beef Soup Recipe

: Traditional Vegetable Beef Soup for the Stove or Slow Cooker

  • 2 to 2.5 pounds beef shank cross-cuts, or any cheap cut of beef, preferably something with marrow bones
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large can whole, peeled tomatoes (about 4 cups worth)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon whole celery seed
  • 2 tablespoons pearled barley (not quick-cooking barley)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, cubed potatoes
  • 16 ounce bag frozen mixed vegetables (the one I used had green beans, peas, corn, carrots and lima beans – 4 cups worth. Use fresh veggies, if you prefer.)

 Vegetable Beef Soup Instructions

  • Set your soup pot over medium heat.

  • Once it’s hot, add the meat, turning to brown it really well on all sides.


  • Add the water, bay leaves, salt & pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Be sure you’re just simmering, not boiling. Long cooking at a slow simmer helps to break down the collagen and tenderize the meat, while boiling can make the meat tough.
  • Remove the meat to a plate. When it’s cool enough to handle, cut it off the bones and either chop it up or pull it apart into bits. Discard gristle. Skim fat from the liquid, if desired. (I don’t usually, unless the meat was particularly fatty.)
  • Return meat to the pot. (I usually put any large bones back in as well, so that more of the minerals in the bones – calcium, postassium, phosphorus – can end up in the stock. Adding an acid, such as the tomatoes, helps this happen. Hmm. Maybe next time I’ll add the tomatoes before simmering the meat & bones. Never occurred to me until just now…Small bones are too hard to find again, amongst all the meat and veggies, so toss those out. )
  • Do not drain the tomatoes – add the whole can. Use a large fork or wooden spoon to smash up the tomatoes against the side of the pot.
  • Now, add everything else. If needed, add water to bring the volume up to 4 quarts. Stir to mix well, then turn the heat to medium-high to bring to a boil quickly. Reduce the heat to low and put the lid on. I always tilt the lid slightly. (Because I’m paranoid about boil-overs, even on very low heat. Don’t mind me. Move along.)

Vegetable Beef Soup - This is gonna be gooooooood

  • Simmer for at least one hour. Two is better, in my opinion, so the veggies are quite tender, and the flavors can mingle and have a chance to get to know each other. Remember to remove bay leaves and bones before serving. This recipe makes 4 quarts of soup: enough for dinner with some left for the freezer. Make plenty and freeze a bunch for easy meals later on.
  • To prepare in a slow cooker, brown the meat as described, then put everything in the slow cooker and cook on low 8 to 10 hours. The meat and vegetables should be tender. Remove meat to a plate. (Put the lid back on the slow cooker keep the heat in.) When cool enough to handle, cut meat from bones. Discard bones and gristle. Chop up the meat and return it to the slow cooker. Cover and cook at least one more hour. Remove bay leaves and serve.

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

  Bobbie Laughman is a leaf on the wind. Watch how she soars. Or, just send her an email at Bobbie@Home-Ec101.com

Beef Stroganoff, Gluten Free and for the Slow Cooker

Heather says:

Beef stroganoff is not an attractive comfort food, which is why it has taken me nearly five years to get around to posting this slow cooker recipe. It’s not the beef stroganoff’s fault it’s unattractive and the recipe itself is quite simple; it’s just a homely dish. People on the interwebz can be cruel and I just knew, no matter how hard I tried, this recipe would end up on the culinary equivalent of Awkward Family Photos. Today I swallow my pride and share the recipe, because the world can always use a little more comfort food. If you can have wheat, it’s just a straight substitution of all purpose flour for the rice flour.

I served this recipe over oven roasted potatoes seasoned with thyme.

: Beef Stroganoff, Gluten Free

: This is a gluten free recipe for beef stroganoff, adapted for the slow cooker or Crockpot

  • 2.5 – 3lbs beef round steak or cube steak
  • 3/4 cup rice flour*, divided into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup
  • 1 tsp salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 3/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • fresh ground pepper (I just use a few turns)
  • 2 onions sliced into rings
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lb sliced mushrooms
  • 1 1/4 cups beef stock / broth / bouillon or 1 can beef broth
  • 1/4 cup wine (I use whatever I have on hand, nothing has been disappointing)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 cup sour cream

 Instructions

  • Trim off any excess fat from the round steak. If you’re using cube steak, this should not be an issue. Cut the beef into strips, 1/2 inch wide and no more than 2 – 3 inches long, set aside.
  • In a bowl mix together: 1/2 cup of rice flour, salt, dry mustard, and fresh ground pepper.
  • Toss the beef strips with the flour mixture until thoroughly coated and place in the slow cooker.
  • Add the remaining ingredients except the sour cream and reserved 1/4 cup of rice flour. Stir.
  • Cook on low 6 – 8 hours or high for 4.
  • Turn off the slow cooker and mix together the sour cream and rice flour. Stir into the beef stroganoff and give it a few minutes to thicken.
  • Serve over potatoes or rice for gluten free folks and hot or hot buttered noodles for the wheat tolerant.

Rice flour is very inexpensive and can be found in many stores in the Asian / Ethnic food section or in any Asian grocery store, it can also be found in many health food stores.

*If you can have wheat, just use all-purpose flour in place of the rice flour.

Diet tags: Gluten free

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

What Is the Difference Between Cube Steak and Round Steak?

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I’m really trying to cook more at home, but sometimes I’d like to make substitutions but I’m just not sure when it’s ok to substitute round steak for cube steak or vice versa. I’m just not comfortable talking to the butcher, I just want to grab whatever happens to be in the meat case and make dinner. Is that so wrong?

Signed,
Shy Shopper

Heather says:

Cuts of Beef ChartNo, it’s not wrong at all, I know as customer it’s perfectly acceptable for me to ask the butcher questions, but I don’t want to bother him. Heck, on busy shopping days (which I try to avoid like the plague) I have a hard enough time just getting up to the beef case. I’m not sure what some of those people are doing hanging out over the meat cooler, but they sure do take their sweet time.

You’ll notice that the names of cuts of beef and pork can vary by region and country, which makes everything extra fun for the novice cook. In general cube steak IS round steak that has been run through a machine that tenderizes the cut by physically breaking down some of that tough connective tissue.

You’ll notice the round cut is from the hindquarter of the cow and is in general a tougher cut of beef. Sometimes cube steak is top sirloin that has been run through the tenderizer.

In some areas of the country you’ll also find cube steak labelled as minute steak, but in the rest of the US, minute steaks are generally thinner cuts of top round or top sirloin.

So when considering a substitution (like I’ll be doing later today in a gluten free beef stroganoff for the slow cooker), remember that cube steak is round steak that has already had some of the tenderizing work done for you. This makes cube steak slightly more versatile than round steak in the substitution game. It’s fine to substitute a more tender cut of beef for a tougher one, but the reverse is not always true.

Round steak has not had that extra tenderizing step performed so it’s best to stick with either very quick cooking methods (and very thin slices cut against the grain) like stir fry or to use a slow, wet cook like braising.

Cube steaks have a little more versatility and can be pan fried, which is a  slower cook than a stir fry, to make dishes like country fried steak or braised for dishes like country style cube steak.

In either case, you’ll find cube and round steak much easier to slice if cut while partially frozen.

 Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

How to Grill Meatloaf

Heather says:

Earlier this week I asked Home-Ec 101 readers to share their questions about grilling. Sandee asked how should I grill a meatloaf?

There are several methods out there on these wild, wild interwebz. Some of them are rather unsettling.

Foil packets are awesome for vegetables, but what foil packets create is an environment to steam food. Let that roll around in your mind for a moment, got that? Ok, now the most popular method I found while double checking my intended method to grill meatloaf was using a foil packet. No, we here at Home-Ec 101 do not steam our ground beef. No. Just no. I think I might make an exception for certain kinds of Asian dumplings, but I’ve not attempted to make those and that’s a very different taste profile.

The best meatloaves are moist, but have that wonderful caramelized glaze. If you weren’t going for the glaze, why not just have a meatball?

Try to keep the lid closed while grilling your meatloaf, you’re trying to create an environment similar to your oven. If you do not have a rack you can grill in a foil pan or a cast iron skillet, just be sure you are still grilling via the indirect method or you may scorch the bottom of your meatloaf.  Consider using carrots or celery ribs to raise the meatloaf off the bottom of the pan. Perhaps I’m a bit picky, but I find a greasy meatloaf completely unappetizing.

Use a thermometer, every grill is different and a thermometer is much more accurate than a timer. Your grill, with the lid down may approach 400°F, while mine was at 350°F. It’s going to vary a lot from grill to grill, especially if you are just getting used to grilling. Also keep in mind that thermometers do fail, if you can see that the loaf is nearly done, your ground beef was fully thawed when you mixed it, but the thermometer still says 60°F, maybe it’s the thermometer. Take it out and reinsert it in a new place or cut open the meatloaf and take a peek. If the meat is brown, it’s not 60°F. Cooking safely is a balance of using tools and using good judgement when the tools fail,as they do on occasion.

Finally, let’s talk about surface area. To reduce the amount of time on the grill, you’ll want to increase the surface area of the loaf as much as possible. A low, flat rectangle will grill much more quickly than the traditional loaf shape. You’ll also have much more area on which to spread the glaze. U

: Grilled Meatloaf
  1. 1.5 lbs lean ground beef
  2. 2/3 cup bread crumbs or rolled oats run through the blender or food processor
  3. 3/4 cup milk
  4. 2 eggs, beaten
  5. 1/4 cup finely minced onion
  6. 1 garlic clove finely minced
  7. 1 tsp salt
  8. fresh ground pepper
  9. 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning (or sage, basil, oregano, or my favorite Cajun)
  10. Optional Glaze – just mix together

  11. 1/4 cup ketchup
  12. 1 TBSP brown sugar
  13. 1 tsp dry mustard
  1. Gently crumble the meat into a large bowl. The key to a tender meatloaf is to handle the meat as little as possible. To ensure easy mixing, gently seperate the ground bits and make a well (depression) in the center.
  2. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs, you can substitute crushed crackers or stuffing mix if desired, evenly over the contents in the bowl.
  3. In a second bowl, stir together the milk, beaten eggs, and seasoning. Mix well.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the well you created in the meat. With clean hands fold the meat toward the center. Do this by grasping the side of the bowl with one hand, to hold it steady. Slide the other under the meat and fold it toward the middle. Rotate the bowl and repeat. Only repeat this step until the meat is just mixed. The less you handle the meat, the better.
  5. On a clean work surface pat the mixture into the desired shape, either several mini-loaves* or a single, flat loaf about 1.5 inches thick.
  6. Transfer the loaves to a baking rack, over a tray to catch drippings to reduce flare ups.
  7. Grill indirectly with the lid closed. Try not to open the grill as this lets the heat escape, increasing the cook time.
  8. Rotate the tray halfway through cooking to ensure the loaf is cooked evenly and glaze the meatloaf when the thermometer reads 120F.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s) approximate, mini-loaves will take significantly less time, plan accordingly

Number of servings (yield): 6

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

 

Questions?