Thank G-d for an appreciative crowd who welcomes tongue! And I do have just such a crowd, right in my backyard.
Growing up, tongue was a great treat. I only make it three or four times a year, like this past week for a large Sukkot Family Dinner, where I served it to a captive and delighted audience. But I confess I would make it more often if it were not known to raise so many eyebrows and send so many people heaving at the mere mention of it. Quite often, I notice that when I leave the tongue slices whole, all bets are off, whereas dicing it mitigates the objectionable look and the off-putting associations…. I really apologize for being so …. apologetic about including beef tongue in my recipe repertoire.
Only in America do we need to make excuses for it, by the way.
Everywhere else it and all offal cuts are an expensive delicacy, whereas here it is expensive all right, but frown-upon. Hey, no offense, it looks like we Sephardis are more adventurous with our flavors, okay? We have a higher threshold for unconventional cuts of meat, and are not nearly as squeamish about eating them as folks this side of the Pond are. You say roast, we say tajine; you say beef roast, we say… beef tongue. We even put it in Cholent, where it comes out butter-soft and succulent.
Beef tongue is intensely flavored
It is also somewhat costly, so I love the addition of the Swiss Chard: the greens add to the dish’s bulk, and makes it a most interesting – and more economical – tajine. The sweet-and-sour flavor duo works like a charm in this composition. And you will need very few added adornments, if any: the dish is complete and stands on it own, in all its glory.
I start with fresh (raw) beef tongue
Fresh, that is, raw, not pickled, so I can control the cooking time and salt content better; the salt used in kashering is ample enough to salt the whole dish. Also, I don’t want the pickling flavors superimposed on the flavors I am choosing to go with. I love pickled tongue boiled, cooled and sliced, as a cold cut, with a nice Dijon mustard, nothing more. Or I would use it as a luxurious pizza topping, for a special sinner treat. But I would choose only a fresh tongue as a starting point for a tongue dish.
- 1 fresh (not pickled) beef tongue, 3 ½ to 4 pounds
- 2 bunches Swiss chard, leaves and ribs, sliced thin
- 3 large tomatoes, or 6 plum tomatoes. diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 good pinches saffron
- 4 bay leaves, or 1 teaspoon ground
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1/2 cup raisins, dark or golden
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar (avoiding sugar: use 2-3 packets of stevia)
- 1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar
Put the beef tongue in a wide heavy pot, add enough water to cover it, and cook, covered, on a medium flame for 2 hours.
When the beef tongue is cool enough to handle, peel it, and cut it in 1-inch dice. Return it to the pot with the Swiss chard, tomatoes, garlic, saffron, bay leaves and turmeric, and 2 cups water. Bring to boil, then reduce the flame and cook, covered, for 45 minutes. Add the raisins, sugar and vinegar and cook for 20 more minutes.
Transfer all the meat and vegetables to a platter with a slotted spoon, and check the liquid in the pot. If it is too thin, reduce it on a high flame, just 2-3 minutes, until it is thickened to the consistency of maple syrup. Pour the liquid over all. Serve hot.