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Lengua de Vaca con Setas | Beef Tongue with Mushrooms

If there is a better piece of meat on the cow than the tongue, I haven’t found it. It takes some love and patience to cook it well, but it’s more than worth the effort. Tongue is deeply flavorful without being gamey, while having a toothsome texture that stays fork tender and melts in your mouth. The biggest problem is that, unfortunately, each cow has only one tongue.

This dish makes the beef tongue the star of the plate, with a ridiculously flavorful mushroom broth.

Catalans love wild mushrooms - foraging for and using mushrooms plays a prominent role in the culture. As a mushroom guy, this fueled a lot of my initial learning about the cuisine in general. In season, you find a huge variety of wild mushrooms stacked up fresh, on display in Catalan markets. Out of season, a wide selection of dried and preserved mushrooms is also available. As I work on this, we are out of mushroom season, locally, but I always have large quantities of a couple dozen different dried mushrooms in my pantry.

The initial Catalan recipe I found leading me to play with this dish, called for St. George’s mushroom (Calocybe gambosa), a very popular springtime mushroom throughout Spain. Unfortunately, it doesn’t grow in North America, as far as I know. So, though I have gotten it in Spain, I have never come across it in the states. Fortunately, adding a variety of different dried mushrooms can add the intensely earthy flavor – no need to limit to St. George’s mushroom. I used a mix of porcini (Boletus rex veris), lobsters (Hypomyces lactiflorum), and yellow foots (Craterellus tubaeformis). All three of these add a little something different to the flavor and aroma. You can use a mix (or just one variety) of any wild mushrooms you want. This is one case where the more concentrated aroma and flavor of dried mushrooms works better than fresh.


To cook tongue:

1 beef tongue (about 3 lbs)

1 onion, peeled and left whole

3 garlic cloves, peeled

2 bay leaves

1 tsp black peppercorns

Salt TT

To make dish:

1 quart (4 cups) reserved tongue cooking broth

2 oz dried wild mushroom mix (porcini, lobster, black trumpet, yellowfoot, morels, etc.)

Oil for cooking

2 large onions, peeled and cut in small dice

4 large roma tomatoes, seeded and cut in small dice

1 whole, cooked beef tongue, peeled and cut in 3/8” thick slices

Salt TT

For Picada:

3 cloves garlic, peeled

Handful of parsley sprigs, rough chopped

Rough chopped parsley for garnish

1. Cook the tongue: Rinse the tongue well under cold water to clean off any slimy residue. Cover the tongue with cold water in a large pot, along with the onion, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, and generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, skimming off any scum that rises to the top. Lower heat to a simmer, and cook until tongue is very tender when poked with a small knife or skewer in thickest part. For a large beef tongue, this can take 3 - 3½ hours. When done, carefully remove tongue, and let cool for a few minutes. When cool enough to handle (but still very warm), peel off the thick skin on the outside. This should be pretty easy with your fingers, but any parts that stick can be loosened up with a paring knife.

Reserve 1 quart of the cooking liquid

When completely cooled, cut tongue into 3/8” thick slices.

Note: You can cook the tongue the day before you make the dish, and store it covered in the fridge. It is much easier to slice when it has cooled completely, the next day.

2. In a large bowl, cover the dried mushrooms with the reserved cooking liquid, and set aside until needed.

3. Make the picada: Add the garlic cloves and a small pinch of salt to a mortar. Use the pestle to grind the garlic to a paste. Add the parsley and continue grinding until it is incorporated into the paste.

You can do this step while the sofrito is cooking.

4. Make the sofrito: Heat a large heavy-bottomed pan or cazuela on a medium-low flame, and, when hot, add a generous amount of oil, the onions, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring regularly, until the onions are melting soft, but not browned. Add the tomatoes and another pinch of salt, and continue cooking until they are also meltingly soft and well cooked.

5. Finish the dish: When the sofrito is ready, add the mushrooms to the pan, along with the mushroom soaking liquid (strain the liquid through a fine strainer if you aren’t certain the mushrooms were quite clean). Add the sliced tongue, and bring up to a simmer. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Stir in the picada, and let simmer for another 3 to 5 minutes. Taste, and adjust seasoning if needed.

Serve immediately, garnished with rough chopped parsley, along with good bread to soak up the sauce.

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