Transforming a tough, throw-away part of the animal into something beautiful and delicious is the true measure of a cook. A few weeks ago I had dinner at my favorite Austin restaurant, Foreign & Domestic. The special that night was thinly sliced pastrami cured beef tongue, and it was outstanding.
The experience motivated me to try making it myself. I had toyed with the idea of tongue pastrami for a long time. Last year I made it with the traditional brisket and wanted to substitute tongue, a much cheaper and leaner cut of meat.
We ordered some tongues from Richardson Farms. Five pounds of locally raised meat for $14 was a steal. I prepared a sweet and savory brine flavored with salt, homemade pickling spice, garlic, sugar, brown sugar, and honey. Adding some sodium nitrite gave the meat a beautiful pink color and the familiar pastrami-like flavor.
I cooled the brine and submerged the tongues in the liquid where they pickled for 3 days. Then I rinsed them off, coated them in ground black peppercorn and coriander seeds, and smoked them for about 8 hours.
That’s the tongue pastrami overview so you can prepare yourself 3 days in advance. Here’s the step-by-step procedure adapted from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie:
- 1 gallon water
- 1 1/2 cups kosher salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 8 teaspoons pink salt (sodium nitrite)
- 1 tablespoon picking spice
- 1/4 cup honey
- 5 garlic cloves, crushed
- One or two beef tongues
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, lightly toasted
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns, lightly toasted
1. Combine the brine ingredients in a pot large enough to hold the tongues. Bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat and let the brine cool to room temperature.
2. Submerge the tongues in the brine. Place a plate on top to keep the meat covered with the brine and prevent it from floating. Refrigerate for 3 or 4 days.
3. Remove the tongues from the brine. Rinse them, pat dry, and set aside. Get rid of that brine!
4. Grind the coriander and peppercorn mixture in spice grinder or food processor. Coat the tongues with it on all sides.
5. Hot-smoke the tongues until they reach an internal temperature of 150 degrees. (Try to keep the smoking temperature as low as possible so the tongues can smoke for a long as possible. We smoked ours overnight)
6. Let the tongues rest for a few hours after smoking. To prepare the meat for eating, slice it as thinly as possible. Heat it in a pan, or steam it before serving.