Sirloin, Ribeye, Strip, and Flank may be beef cuts you’re familiar with—but what about Tongue? If the concept of eating beef tongue sounds a little foreign, that’s because it is: langue de boeuf is a French delicacy that may just surprise you if you give it a try.
A Cut Above The Rest
Langue de boeuf literally translates to beef tongue, and it’s not all that different from other cuts of red meat, aside from having a higher fat content. In the French preparation, langue de boeuf is chopped into much smaller pieces (the tongue itself usually weighs several pounds) so that it is virtually unrecognizable. From there, the dish is usually prepared with a healthy helping of sauce and served with some sort of starch. When cooked properly, langue de boeuf will simply melt in your mouth, and you’ll likely forget you ever had an aversion to the dish.
Waste Not, Want Not
While the French have long embraced langue de boeuf as a national treat, they were far from the first to do so. In fact, humans have been enjoying tongue for millions of years; hunter-gatherers didn’t have much room to turn up their noses at any cut of meat. In ages ago, tongue was likely a sought after dish due to its high fat content more than its flavor, but this long held appreciation for the dish explains why it has appeared in so many modern cultures’ cuisines. In addition to France, Mexico, Japan, and even the United States have historically enjoyed beef tongue. Now, you can enjoy langue de boeuf at Le Bistrot de Paris and Caves Petrissans, both in Paris.
The Proof Is in The Prep
Cultures across the world eat beef tongue, each with their own unique methods of preparation. In Mexico, they put tongue in tacos, much like they would any other cut of beef. Some Asian cultures even serve beef tongue cold. What makes langue de boeuf unique is its preparation; instead of pretending that beef tongue is the same as every other cut of beef, the French have created a specific format for langue de boeuf recipes.
Making Langue De Boeuf
When you break down the mechanics of any langue de boeuf recipe, it’s clear that the most time consuming part will actually be creating the sauce, as the meat and starch cook rather quickly and simply (oftentimes in the same pan as the sauce). This detailed recipe, which serves langue de boeuf with lentils, can be broken down into a few steps:
- First, heat butter, onion, garlic, and lentils in a saucepan.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste, water, tongue, and a number of seasonings to create the sauce.
- Allow this combination to boil.
- Finally, remove and slice the tongue, then serve with lentils and tomato sauce.
Swapping Sauces and Starches
Of course, the easiest variations of langue de boeuf recipes involve different sauces and starches. Potatoes are commonly served alongside tongue, and Madeira sauce was famously touted as a beef tongue aid by Julia Child. Consider the fatty texture of langue de boeuf, and think about what sorts of flavors might best manage that texture for your palate. From there, you’ll have an easier time experimenting with sauce and starch combinations.
It might not be your favorite cut of beef (yet), but give langue de boeuf a try and you may just see why this French delicacy has been a part of the human diet for millions of years.