After an intensive cooking session of the beef tongue -including the few days preparation before if you take into account ordering the monstrous piece from our butcher and soaking it overnight- it was finally ready. We sat down to eat it. It was stunning! The beef tongue was possibly more tender than any other cut we had ever made. The harmony of flavours with all the other ingredients was perfect.
The beef tongue was Mr. H.’s creation. I was just helping out. As we were eating, the conversation went like this:
Sofia: This is amazing, incredibly delicious! So, does this dish have a formal name?
Mr. H.: It’s called, euh, Beef Tongue with Caper Sauce.
(Euh is a sound French people are always making in their sentences).
Sofia: But we’ve spent all day making this, and only added the capers during the last few moments. They were literally the second last ingredient we just threw in! How can a dish possibly be named after its last minute ingredient?
Mr. H.: Well that’s often the case with French cuisine, the flavour of the dish is named after the ingredient that gives it the finishing touch.
Just like the cherry on top, the capers got an awful lot of protagonism because they gave the finishing touch. The truth is, they did serve to give a tiny bit of crunchiness and packets of zesty surprise to an otherwise classic soft velvety meal. Like little balls of mischief but in a good way.
The planning of this dish began about a few days before the cooking began. We were at our local butchers when it occurred to Mr. H. that he might want to cook a beef tongue. We asked our butcher if he could get hold of one for us, as he doesn’t usually sell them in his shop. Of course he could, but we should give him a few days to get it in.
A few days later we returned to pick up our beef tongue. It was enormous. Ours weighed about 1.5kg. Also, I have to admit I always think beef tongues are awfully ugly. If you’ve never seen it whole and uncooked, be aware that it can look scary. Even so, I was positive it would turn out great because Mr. H. had already made beef tongue a few times, and from trial and error he now knows the secret of the universe on how to make it so tender… And camouflage its anatomic appearance.
Beef tongue is a very muscular and chewy (pardon the pun!) tissue, or piece of meat if you prefer. Just think that cows spend an awful lot of time ruminating, so their tongues are tough. Apart from boiling it for hours, the secret is to soak it in water with a generous squirt of vinegar and coarse sea salt. The vinegar and the sea salts removes the strong blood-in-the-tongue taste and helps soften up the tissue fibres more.
Mr. H. made this beef tongue recipe based on this French recipe of Langue de boeuf, sauce aux câpres found here. With regards to the vegetables that are cooked with the beef tongue, he went a bit over enthusiastic and wanted to add about double amounts of nearly everything. Altogether they wouldn’t fit in our pot, so we ended up boiling half of it, then removing half of it into another pot, and then boiling the rest. To simplify things I’ll write out the recipe pretending all the vegetables fit into the one pot, but feel free to consult the link I provided earlier in this paragraph for the lesser quantities. We served this dish with some mashed potatoes, so I will also add on the recipe for mashed potatoes.
I also want to add that while this recipe is awfully time consuming and yields such an enormous quantity of food, we did find that we got a fair amount of meals through it. I think we ate 4 times with it, 2 people, so that’s 8 servings. At that moment we also calculated how much each serving would have approximately cost, and while I don’t recall what it was exactly, would could say that it was 8-10 times less than what you would expect to pay for a dish like this in a restaurant. Pardon the memory lapse with regards to the costs, but we actually cooked this a few months ago.
Beef Tongue with Caper Sauce Recipe
Ingredients for the beef tongue and vegetables
1.5kg beef tongue
6 celery branches
4 big cloves of garlic
4 bay leaves
3 twigs of thyme
1 star anise
a few grains of black pepper
3 tablespoons vinegar
coarse sea salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
Ingredients for the caper sauce
2 egg yolks
Ingredients for the mashed potatoes
3/4 kg potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup milk
Rinse the beef tongue in cold water. Put into a large pot and cover with water. Add the vinegar and some coarse sea salt. Leave to soak for minimum 3 hours though preferably all night.
Prepare the vegetables for the broth: peel and cut the carrots, onions and garlic. Cut the leeks and celery sticks. Tie them together (so that they don’t disintegrate all over the place later while boiling). We poked holes into the onion and stuck the cloves into them, though putting the cloves into the onions is optional.
Rinse the beef tongue in cold water. Put into a pot. Cover with water. Bring to boil and let it boil for 5 minutes or until foam appears. Discard the water and rinse the beef tongue again in cold water.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add all the vegetables along with the bay leaves, thyme, star anise, grains of black pepper and cloves. Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat or until some of the vegetables become a sort of toasted color. Place the beef tongue on top. Add water until everything inside is covered in water. Bring to boil. Boil for 3 hours, checking and stirring once in a while. If too much water evaporates, just add some more. Add salt to taste.
After 3 hours, filter about 1 litre of the broth into a pot.
Meanwhile you can make the mashed potatoes. Peal and cut the potatoes. Add into a large pot. Cover with water. Bring to boil and allow to boil until all the potato pieces are cooked. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain away the water. Add the butter and milk along with some salt and ground nutmeg to taste. Mash with a potato masher.
Place the vegetables into a large casserole dish. Take out the beef tongue onto a cutting board. carefully remove and discard the skin. Once all the skin has been removed, cut the beef tongue into approximately 2cm thick slices. Put the beef tongue pieces on the vegetables. Put on the lid. Put the casserole dish on low heat to keep the contents warm because now we’ll be preparing the sauce with capers.
Cook and reduce the 1 litre broth for about 15 minutes or until it has become about half of its initial volume. Transfer it into a separate recipient.
In the same pot where the broth had been reduced, melt the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the flour, stirring well for about 1 minute. Add the reduced broth. Turn up the stove and mix well. Add 30ml of the cream and mix. Continue cooking for about 3 minutes. Add the capers along with 3 tablespoons of its juice from the jar. Turn off the stove. Add the 2 eggs yolks along with the rest of the cream. Mix well. Make sure the stove was turned off so that they egg yolks don’t coagulate in the sauce.
Arrange the beef tongue, vegetables and mashed potatoes onto the plates. Add the caper sauce onto the beef tongue.
Serve with some red wine.
Enjoy your meal!