I will be the first to admit that there is nothing appealing about a tongue. If I were to base my food choices simply off how it looked I would never eat a tongue. Fortunately for me I am not squeamish when it comes to food. Tongue can be off putting when you look at it but if you have ever had tongue cooked properly it is some of the best meat around. Over the years I have pickled deer tongue and made corned elk tongue but the one thing I have always wanted to make is tongue tacos. I finally got my chance this year when I received some elk tongues from two different sources. My buddy Ben shot and Elk this year and saved me the tongue, heart and some other meat. Then a friend from work gave me a bag of elk parts after his father-in-law butchered some of the elk he raises. I am now set for odd elk parts for some time.
I don't have any issue using up the odd parts of an animal. For me it is one of the rewarding challenges of cooking. When you can take a part of an animal that most people shy away from and turn it into something delicious. A lot of people I know just can't get over that it is a tongue or a heart or any other part that they would normally not eat. I have a strategy for those people. You have to transform the unfamiliar into something they are more familiar with. If I were to cook a heart whole and then place it on a plate nobody would eat it but if I brine that heart, cook it and then slice it thin and make a deer heart pastrami sandwich it changes everything and is now more familiar and therefore more appealing.
The trick is finding a way to use the offal that still highlights the offal but changes its form to something more appealing. Duck gizzards are one of my favorite organ meats to use. They are a dense little nugget of muscle that is very tough to eat but if you confit them shred them up and make them back into nuggets the richness and flavor of the meat remain while getting rid of the less than appetizing appearance. Taco's are a great way to present food, everyone likes a taco. These are tongue tacos and I would be willing to bet that if I didn't tell anyone they were made out of tongue they would be some of the best tacos ever eaten. The tongue is a very dense muscle and has its own unique fattiness. When it is braised for song periods of time it breaks down and shreds apart to make a rich succulent taco filling. This is really a very simple recipe it just take a little time for the braise. I topped these off with some fresh cilantro, white onion, lettuce, queso fresco, Mexican creme and some hot sauce and they were hands down the best tacos I have ever made. This recipe could be made with a cow tongue if you don't have an elk tongue available.
Elk Tongue Taco Meat
One elk tongue
16 oz jar of salsa verde
2 cups of water
3-4 chipotles in adobo sauce Plus 2 tablespoons of the sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste.
1. Place the tongue in a pot of simmering water for 45 minutes to an hour. Then peel the skin off the tongue. Sometime the skin peels right off and sometimes you have to shave it off with a knife.
2. Place the tongue in an oven proof pan that has a lid, add the salsa verde, water, chipotles with sauce and the cumin, then place in a 300 degree over for 4 hours.
3. Check the tongue for doneness, when the tongue shreds apart easily it is ready.
4. shred the tongue and add some of the braising liquid to the meat, season with salt and pepper then assemble you tacos.