Sunday, December 5, 2010

Buffalo Tongue

A simple variation on the brine and boil theme.

The rule of thumb for brining hams is a half day per pound of meat. Tongues seem to take a week for the brine to penetrate, even if they only weigh two pounds. This could be because the meat is dense and fine-textured, but that's only a theory.

As is easy to imagine, the tongue is a highly exercised muscle. It contains lots of connective tissue that moist heat dissolves into delicious, succulent gelatin. As such tongues are almost always boiled.
Peeling the I had just made some good buffalo stock, so I decided to braise this particular tongue. I didn't expect braising to affect the tongue much differently than boiling; I just figured it would result in some very rich, gelatinous stock to play around with.

I say that I braised the tongue, but I guess I should mention that I didn't sear the meat beforehand because there is a layer of "skin" on the tongue that is practically inedible, even after extensive cooking. In the most obvious sign that there is a God in heaven and that He wants us to eat tongue, the skin easily peels away from the cooked flesh. There's no point in searing the tongue, as the caramelized exterior will eventually be removed.

Tongue can be eaten in any number of ways, but my favourite is sliced thin and served cold. The tongue is nature's cold-cut.  As I said, cooked, it has lots of gelatin, and a surprising amount of fat at the base, where it connects to the bottom the mouth and throat. Unlike other fatty cuts like pork shoulder or beef shortribs, which have coarse textures, tongue has a very fine, homogeneous texture that lends itself to slicing. It's great on sandwiches.

I made a simple tasting plate for my sliced tongue. Remember those cylinders of marrow I extracted from the soaked buffalo bones? They were poached and sliced to make little medallions of marrow. Seasoned with coarse salt, they are perfect for spreading on toast, and an ideal accompaniment to buffalo tongue and relish.

An Edmonton tasting plate: buffalo tongue, toast, marrow, grainy mustard, and homemade relish


  1. I've never had a game tongue peel that cleanly. Am I not cooking it long enough?

  2. Hm. I'm not really sure.

    The tongue was briased for about three hours, until a knife easily pierced the thicker part at the back of the tongue. I let the tongue cool in the stock overnight before peeling.

    The section of skin I am removing in the picture was by far the largest piece I was able to peel off at once. The other parts were tedious and came away in small sections.

  3. YUM! The entire dish would probably be free if you were in the right place at the right time. I love that you are using what, in modern day, is often thrown away. And, I know how delicious marrow and tongue is....

  4. there's a great vid somewhere online re. cow's tongue . . .it's massive.

    Though, I have to say I enjoy the process you used more than the video. . . i'll try to find the link but i can't remember where i saw it a long long time ago. it's a set of 2 canadians abroad in the states that are just cooking up offal left right and centre.