Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sous Vide Tacos de Lengua

Sous Vide Tacos de Lengua

This is a supper simple recipe from Serious Eats for beef tongue tacos made with a sous vide setup (though they do include alternate stove top braising instructions). All you are doing is putting your big ole cow tongue in a bag with tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and duck fat so that after 24-48 hours in the water bath (at 170 degrees F) you also have the basis for a salsa.

Beef Tongue ready for Water Bath

If you've never dealt with beef tongue before, you do have to handle the fact that it is indeed an animal's tongue and there is really no mistaking that. What that means, besides however "gross" you might think it looks, is that you have to peel the outer layer off before dicing up the rest of the muscle. I didn't have any problem with this... and I'm not an offal person in general... but obviously your mileage may vary. Personally I think if you are eating meat you should be comfortable with the fact that said meat came from an animal with a face (and a tongue)... but I suppose that doesn't mean you should have to want to eat it, however I think you'd be missing out since it is just like any other muscle in most respects.

Circling back around to the recipe... I had two relatively minor problems with it. The first is that it calls for 1.5 lbs of cow (or veal) tongue which, in the case of cows, is physically impossible. Cows are big animals, so you are looking at something more on the order of 3 lbs and butchers don't generally sell them in pieces (at least in my experience). So you either need access to veal tongue, to double the recipe, or a friend who also wants half a cow tongue... which worked for me, believe it or not, but seems like it would be somewhat uncommon in general. The second issue is that, once your beef tongue is done cooking, you divide the resulting liquid into two parts... one half to make the salsa and the other to reduce on the stove top with the tongue. The instructions say "Combine tongue and remaining liquid in heavy-bottomed 10 or 12-inch skillet. Bring to a simmer over high heat, reduce to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is reduced and tongue has started to crisp, about 8 minutes." Emphasis mine. How exactly does that work? Can you crisp something in liquid? Well if it's fat, yes, and so I suppose it means for you to cook off the water and then fry the tongue up a bit... but all my liquid cooked off with no "crisping" so I ended up deglazing and going with it as is. I also found I preferred to just mix my beef tongue in with the chipotle salsa instead of keeping them separate, so I'm not sure there is really anything to be gained from that step.

Otherwise it's a solid recipe. Super simple and a great way to use a sous vide setup.

Friday, November 1, 2013


Recently Anna and I took a quick weekend trip up to Montreal for a belated celebration of our wedding anniversary. It's only about a five and a half hour drive from Boston through a lot of pretty country up in Vermont so it's a bit of a shame that I've only been up there once before. My previous visit (Anna had never been) was back in the 90's when I was fresh out of college and I went with four guys who stuffed themselves into a room at the Travelodge (try not to imagine the smell)... and let's just say our, uh, "priorities" were a wee bit different on that trip... so this was a pretty fresh experience of Montreal.


We stayed at LHotel whose claim to fame is having a pretty impressive collection of Pop art decorating its walls... we passed a couple of Lichenstein's and a Warhol on the way from the elevator to our room. It's got a great location on the edge of old Montreal and is right near the metro, so you don't really need to do any driving. We didn't eat there or really spend much time in the room besides sleeping, but the people at the desk were nice and the room was reasonably priced... so unless you want a lot of amenities, I think you'll do well there.

Now, Montreal obviously has a lot of French food, which is not particularly friendly to vegetarians (unless all you want to eat are salads)... and Canada's most famous food, poutine, is a meaty gravy and cheese curds covering fries. So we had to do a little leg work to make sure Anna had some good food to eat. Luckily, on the poutine front La Banquise exists, which among it's 30 odd varieties of poutine has a vegetarian version. You can see our order pictured up top... the closest is "La Kamikaze", which I ordered, and contains hot peppers,tobasco, and merguez sausage. I found it to be quite excellent, and something that surprisingly lived up to the hype Canadian partisans are always heaping on it. It's not something I would want to have every day, but it certainly puts your standard chili or cheese fries to shame. Anna was intrigued enough to want to tinker with the vegetarian version at home... so who knows, maybe we'll post a recipe for it someday... though we'd also have to make the cheese curds I think, since that's not something you see in Massachusetts grocery stores.


The weather wasn't great... not bitter cold, but drizzly... so we took advantage of the metro (which seems great by the way) to head to the the big Jean-Talon market after our poutine. It's got both indoor and outdoor stalls vegetables, food, bread, cheese, meat, fish, etc and I believe it is year round (at least the indoor section). As tempting as the vegetables were... there were some very cute collections of wild mushrooms that were nearly irresistible... it didn't make a whole lot of sense to buy any, so we only window shopped.


There are a number of shops that encircle the market such as the above Capitol Butcher. Meat wasn't really on the grocery list either, but we did bring home some Quebec cheeses. Some of the fromageries we visited were a little intimidating thanks to big crowds and the shouting out of numbers I can barely recognize from high school French class... but we ended up at Marché Des Saveurs Du Québec, which specializes in local products. While there was a bit of a language barrier, we did very well and came home with three pretty unique cheeses.

That evening also managed a fancy vegetarian tasting at XO Le, which was just about 50 feet from our hotel. Really quite nice with impeccable service... probably the longest meal I've ever had but paced so well as to not feel that way. The food was great... modernist in style which powders and foams and whatnot, and was very good. It was quite expensive of course, but that's what you expect for such an evening.

Anna on top of Mount Royal

On the way out we picked up half a dozen St-Viateur Bagel's right out of the wood oven and made a stop for a quick picture on top of Mount Royal. All in all a quite enjoyable trip, and hopefully we won't let decades pass before we get back up to it again.