Fifth quarter cooking: Lamb’s tongues

I think I may be lucky that I didn’t eat any offal when I was growing up. As a child of North American culture, I fear I would have faced liver as an obligation to be dreaded. Instead, I can now approach the fifth quarter with a wide-open mind. And the contemporary culinary culture in which I’ve developed many of my tastes values these cuts highly.

Which is all a roundabout way of saying that when I saw lamb’s tongues at the farmers’ market recently, I didn’t get squeamish; I got excited. Then I got out my wallet.

I’m no stranger to eating tongue, having enjoyed it as a deconstructed deli sandwich at wd~50, with a playful Dr. Pepper glaze at Atelier (prepared by Alex Talbot of Ideas in Food), and, most recently, in exceptionally delicious sopes at Empellon Cocina. But this would be my first time preparing it in any form. Much like chicken feet, in its raw form, there’s no denying where a tongue comes from.

Because tongue is a braising cut, I thought I’d give it a try in the pressure cooker. I turned to Laura Pazzaglia of Hip Pressure Cooking for advice, and she in turn consulted with her mother-in-law in Basilicata. Laura’s recommendation was to peel the tongues first, give them 15 minutes at high pressure, let the pressure dissipate naturally, then check them.

I’ve never seen a recipe call for tongue to be peeled before cooking, so after discussing it with her, I decided to postpone that step. Into the pressure cooker went the tongues – plural; lamb’s tongues are small, so I allowed two per person – with some chicken stock and garlic cloves. It turned out that 15 minutes wasn’t quite enough, but an extra 5 put them right where I wanted: tender but toothsome. Once cooked, they peeled easily.

From there, I proceeded with Fergus Henderson’s recipe for “Lamb’s Tongues, Turnips, and Bacon.” Sort of. I substituted rutabaga for the turnips (and kale for the turnip tops). And the bacon was unsmoked, so I added some smoked salt. Even with those substitutions, the dish was delicious: hearty and earthy, brightened by a dash of vinegar, and with a rich broth to slurp at the end. My husband, who was subjected to “eat your liver; it’s good for you!” dinners as a child, was a little suspicious upon smelling it, but even he liked it.

What’s your favourite preparation for tongue?

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