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How to Cook Fresh Pork Tongue

by A.J. Andrews
It's difficult to tell the difference between pork tongue and veal tongue, especially after it's braised in tomatoes and red wine.

It's difficult to tell the difference between pork tongue and veal tongue, especially after it's braised in tomatoes and red wine.

Since offal went mainstream, you have to look a little harder to find something that isn't on the menu at your local fine-dining restaurant, or in the meat display of your major supermarket. Kidneys, liver and sweetbreads earned their place at the table, so it's about time pork tongue made its entrance. Pork tongue normally gets passed over for tongue from more celebrated animals, such as spring lamb and veal, but tongue from a suckling pig is nearly the same size and cooks in the same amount of time as both.

Braised

Trim off the gristle and cartilage from the tongue and cut out the U-shaped hyoid bone at the base. Make a 1-inch-long slice through the center of the base of the tongue.

Boil the tongue in water for 15 minutes, skimming the froth from the surface as needed, and drain it.

Grasp the tongue by the base with the pointed end pointing away from you. Scrape off the papillae using a narrow knife, such as a boning knife. The tongue should look like a lean, smooth muscle after you scrape it. Submerge the tongue in distilled vinegar and scrub it with your fingers.

Fill the bottom of a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot with an even layer of large-dice mirepoix, or about 2 parts onion to 1 part each celery and carrots, each roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces.

Lay the pork tongue on top of the mirepoix. Add a can or two of stew tomatoes to the pot. Canned tomatoes serve two purposes: tenderizing and adding flavor. Canned tomatoes have more acid than fresh tomatoes, which helps the moist heat soften the tongue.

Add aromatics to the pot. Try a basic aromatic combination of black peppercorns, crushed garlic and bay leaves, then add fresh or dried herbs and spices to taste. Pork tongue has a mild taste, so you can season aggressively.

Pour stock, or equal parts stock and dry red wine, in the pot until it covers the tongue. Cover the pot and place it on the stove over high heat.

Bring the tongue to a boil and lower the heat so it barely simmers. Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it pierces easily with a paring knife. If you have tongue from an older animal, you might have to braise it for 3 or 4 hours. Add stock to the pot as needed so it doesn't run dry.

Remove the tongue, aromatics and mirepoix from the pot, or strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan. Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and whisk in equal parts flour and butter, or a slurry of 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and water, to thicken it into a sauce. Season the sauce to taste.

Slice the tongue into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces and serve it with the sauce. You can also saute the tongue in oil until golden brown before serving to give it texture.

Simmered and Seared

Trim off the gristle and cartilage from the tongue and cut out the U-shaped hyoid bone at the base. Make a 1-inch-long slice through the center of the base of the tongue.

Grasp the tongue by the base with the pointed end pointing away from you, then scrape the tongue smooth with a paring knife. Submerge the tongue in distilled vinegar and scrub it with your fingers.

Cover the bottom of a wide, heavy-bottomed pot with a layer of mirepoix consisting of a few cups of diced onions and about half as many diced carrots and celery.

Lay the pork tongues on top of the mirepoix and add enough cold water to cover the mixture by 3 or 4 inches.

Add aromatics to the water. You might start with a base of crushed garlic, thyme sprigs, parsley stems and black peppercorns, and build from there. Lemongrass, chilis, Szechuan peppercorns and a few bay leaves make good additions, but feel free to improvise with what you have on hand.

Bring the water to a boil on the stove and reduce the heat until it simmers. Skim the froth as it appears on the surface.

Simmer the tongues for a couple hours, and check the tenderness with a paring knife. Simmer tongues from older pigs for 3 to 4 hours before checking. The knife blade should insert and pull out easily when tender.

Scoop out the tongues and set aside. Strain the water and simmer it until it reduces to about 1 cup if you want to reserve it for stock.

Slice the tongues into 1/4- to 1/2-inch strips and season it to taste with kosher salt. Sear the strips in hot oil in a saute pan until golden brown, about 3 or 4 minutes. You can also add it to stir-fries and soups during the last few minutes of cooking.

Items you will need
  • Kitchen knife
  • Boning knife or other narrow knife
  • Distilled vinegar
  • Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot
  • Mirepoix comprised of onions, carrots and celery
  • Aromatics, such as bay leaves, black peppercorns and garlic

About the Author

A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.

Photo Credits

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