Less than a year after a wine-pairing story featuring the other end of the cow, the tail, here is one about a very different type of meat : the beef tongue.
The cow's tongue has something in common with the tail in the sense that it almost never stops moving and working, but it's a very different style of meat : while the tail has this lovely sticky feel brought by its cartilaginous parts, the tongue has a soft and fine texture with the sauce playing a central role for the taste of the dish. I decided to make a try and do the cooking of this dish after spoting well-priced (and well sized) beef tongues on the meat aisle of a supermarket in the Loire. I was checking for special sales at this time of the year, like they often sell pork parts for 1 € a kilo. There was indeed cheap pork that day (not at 1 € though) in the refrigerated cabinets, but these huge, fresh tongues took my attention. I had never cook one, B. was busy in another part of the small town and I took on me to make the leap and go straight cook it. I asked a couple of people about how to prepare a beef tongue, I was said the sauce was important for that dish, which made me hesitate, but Laurent Saillard, whom I shortly visited as he was busy pruning Noëlla Morantin's vineyards, gave me good tips about ways to prepare this crucial sauce, leaving room for improvisation, which was fine with me.
The beef tongue that I bought that day weighed 1,514 kilogram and cost 8,93 €.
Once in the kitchen, I put the tongue to boil in the cast-iron pot. This cooking pot weighs tons but its heating inertia plus the one of the wood cookstove yields great cookings. I put water with ungrinded sea salt in the pot with the tongue. I didn't drown the tongue in the water as I felt it would have made too much water, so the tongue surfaced almost by half, but once the lid back in place, there's a lot of steam in there and any way I'll turn it over once to be sure.
As you can see on the picture, the water has turned into a lightly-oily, savourous-looking soup.
first the sauce.
__The sauce is here made with a base of tomatoes that I took from a glass can of garden tomatoes given to us by B.'s parents a couple of years ago and that we never ate. This glass had been kept in a closet all that time at room temperature and were in perfect condition. See the pic on left : I put several of these juicy tomatoes in a frying pan with shallot, sprinkled them with dry powedered ginger and dry tarragon (both from small glass bottles bought in the supermarket) and poured on the whole thing some generous pours of Porto (any Porto would make the job, I took an ordinary one that has been around for years). The result after a nice, short cooking and partial evaporation of the Porto is what you see on the right. Your sauce is ready.
__The last stage will be to pour the sauce on this already-cooked tongue and put the whole thing into the electric stove for 15 or 20 minutes, at a setting like 8 or 9. This helps the aromas of the sauce melt into the meat. Check from time to time, the sauce must not dry too much on the tongue.
For a first time, I've been pretty lucky : I didn't study much my affair as I jumped onto this without warning and improvised. This meat is tender and tasty, and the sauce isn't the only reason. For some reason I decided that a minor variety wine like a Pineau d'Aunis would be a good match, maybe because I knew that the beef tongue is not as a powerful red meat and that it needed a samely not too powerful wine. I chose Clos Roche Blanche L'Arpent Rouge 2007, a Pineau d'Aunis which is I'm afraid a rarity today (there's no more available) and that I should be ashamed to dare boast pouring and drinking like that in front of you. This unfiltered wine is indeed very nice, a very fresh feel first, with fruit, spicy aromas, something strikingly close to cinnamon, and on the dish side there was this fine texture of the tongue with a differently spicy feel where ginger and tarragon melted beautifully. I was afraid that the spices of the sauce would overwhelm, but that's not the case with this Pineau d'Aunis, perfect balance.
Now, there han't been made any red Pineau d'Aunis in 2008 and 2009, too little grape volumes these years, You'll find only ("only" should be with quotes of course...) rosé Pineau d'Aunis in 2009, and in a very limited volume too. there's hope still that in 2010 there will be red Pineau d'Aunis again. In any case, check for the availability and don't miss them if they make any, it's a steal at the mere 7 € something at which they sell it.
Here is a 9 € tongue weighing 1,5 Kg which makes two savoury meals for 2 people at least and it's beautiful cuisine for nearly nothing... Again, how could I pass this for years ?...
See how the last cow (the one with C-section stiches) licks me and the camera with her tongue, it's both cute and so appropriate for this particular post...
I shot this picture on the right in this fair, when then-Interior-Minister Nicolas Sarkozy visited. He was to become Predident 3 months later. This fair allows the visitor to come in contact with rural France in the middle of Paris. You really feel something different with so many farmers and their family attending the fair, the atmosphere is relax and unpretentious. For an entry fee of 12 €, you get an amazing window on deep rural France and its people. In addition to hundreds of farm animals (cows and pigs especially), you also come across many politicians of all the political spectrum who visit briskly the fair, particularly during the first weekdays. There's also plentiful of hearty foods from the French provinces and quite a number of winery stands where you can taste wines for free.