Sunday, March 13, 2011

Gimme A Little Tongue

Ok, how about a couple of little tongues? Veal tongues, to be exact.

Once again, it's time to post my response to this month's Charcutapalooza March Challenge--Brining. In keeping with my theme on using the hand-raised meadow veal from my farm for as many of the challenges as possible, I knew I had to pickle tongue for this month's assignment.

I've always been a big fan of tongue. A rare treat when I was growing up, I remember how my brother and sister got to feel the scratchy surface of the strange organ before Mom peeled it.

While living in Santa Barbara, the Gonzales brothers took me to La Super Rica Taqueria on Milpas Street. "Always eat where there are lots of Mexicans if you want authentic Mexican food," they told me and then promptly ordered me a plate of tacos de lengua. The velvety meat with fresh salsa on warm handmade tortillas was pure heaven. In twenty years of frequenting the joint, I never ordered anything else.

After moving back to Pennsylvania, my tongue consumption fell off until one of my goat customers--an elderly rabbi who came to the farm for the staples of his Sedar dinner--shared some of his pickled Kosher tongue he brought along for lunch. "This is the way my grandmother and my mother made it," he told me. Knowing I had a great appreciation for wonderful food, when I asked if I could have the recipe, she smiled and pulled an index card from his pocket. "I knew you would ask," he said.

Since giving up refined sugar, I've replaced the brown sugar with pure maple syrup, but other than that, the recipe remains unchanged.

Rabbi Hirschel's Pickled Tongue

2-3 beef tongues

1/2 cup Kosher salt

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

1 tablespoon allspice berries

2 cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

4 bay leaves

3 large garlic cloves, peeled

2 chunks fresh or crystallized ginger

1 teaspoon paprika or 1 dried chili pepper

3 cups water

Bring water to a boil and add all the brine ingredients. Stir until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Let cool. Clean and rinse raw tongues. Place in clean glass jar and cover with cooled cooled brine. Add enough cold water to cover tongues completely. Refrigerate for at least two weeks, but can be kept up to six weeks in brine.

To cook, remove from brine, cover with cold water in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove tongue from cooking water and replace with fresh water. Repeat process three times and on the last boil, turn down and simmer for two hours.

Remove tongue from liquid. While still warm, peel outer skin from meat. Can be served warm or chilled.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Inspired Eating

One of the biggest advantages of being a livestock producer is that I always get first pick out of the pile of meat that comes back from the butcher, that is, unless my incredibly smart customers have purchased an entire animal and had it custom butchered for themselves. In that case, it all goes to them. But when beeves, calves and goats are processed under my U.S.D.A. label so it can be legally sold at farmers markets, you can bet I'm going to put aside those precious few items of which there is usually only one or two of on the animal, such as tongue, tail, testicles, sweetbreads, heart, liver and kidneys.

Anyone who knows me, understands that it's all about the food....very, very good food. So when a loyal customer, a good friend and fellow gastronome who also adheres to the principles of caveman cuisine left Robb Wolf's book at my home during a visit to the farm, I couldn't help but pick it up to see what the rage about eating 'paleo' was all about.

With a significant education in anthropology, coupled with a heavy dose of anatomy and physiology, eating like our ancestors did prior to the dawn of agriculture, made sense to me. But the really cool thing was that my lifestyle pretty much mimicked what Wolf wrote about in his book, except I ate a lot of grains, dairy and some processed sugars (ice cream was my biggest weakness). So in early October last year, I embarked on a 30-day paleo challenge, cutting out all grains, dairy and processed sugar.

With the abundant varieties of meat, vegetables and fruits available to me, my diet pretty much stayed the same except no bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, granola, yogurt, cheeses--all daily staples for me--and of course, no ice cream.

For the first few weeks, all was well, but then I began craving pizza...big, thick crusted disks oozing with mounds of melted mozzarella. Thirty days, I kept telling myself.

But at the end of the month, I didn't want pizza or pasta or rice or even ice cream because I felt really good. Actually, I felt great and so I've continued.

Being the voracious reader I am, I continued to research this nutritional trend when I came across a blog, Mark's Daily Apple. When I read his most recent post, 6 Sneaky Ways To Work Offal Into Your Diet, I went straight to my freezer and pulled out a veal kidney.

After a phenomenal dinner of Veal Kidneys with Green Peppercorn Sauce at Bistro Jeanty in Napa Valley years ago, I've always kept a few packages on hand for when I get a craving of this decadent dish. Tonight was one of those nights.

Tonight, I was going to restock my body with selenium and B12 along with a multitude of other nutrients and vitamins. The recipe is fairly simple and the end result...absolutely scrumptious! And I didn't even have to make the trip to Napa, not that I would have minded.

Sandy's Veal Kidneys in Green Peppercorn Sauce

1 veal kidney, split lengthwise

2 Tablespoons butter, divided

4 large mushrooms, sliced

1 Tablespoon fresh shallots, minced

1 teaspoon green peppercorns

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 cup white wine

handful fresh parsley

salt, white pepper and tarragon

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet and add kidney. Sauté until brown on both side and remove to plate. Add 1 tablespoon butter, shallots and mushrooms. Sauté until mushrooms are wilted and shallots translucent. Return kidneys to pan, lower heat, add wine, lemon juice, peppercorns and seasoning. Cover with lid and simmer for 8-10 minutes.