Not a week goes by without someone passing on what they consider a hot tip about a new (and always tiny) restaurant, an ingredient, a little farm stand, a treasured location, adding, “You cannot write about this. I won’t tell you until you promise.”
Being the curious sort, I always promise.
And I never break the promise though sometimes I regret writing about certain of my own finds, as I often miss out for weeks thereafter, as readers beat me to this or that treasure.
This will likely end up the case with the lamb tongue sold by Williams Ranches. If you’ve read my columns for long, you know I love lambs tongue. It is a long time favorite food, ever since my first bite at Maykadeh Persian Restaurant (470 Green St., San Francisco). The dish was simple, just tender-as-butter lamb tongue with a tangy sauce of lime juice, saffron and sour cream. But is was one of those things that is so much more than simply the sumer of it’s parts. I wanted to make it at home but it would be years before I could do so, as it was almost impossible to find lamb tongue in a market. That began to change, slowly, sometime in the 1990s and now, with increased interested in locally-raised meats, it is much easier to find.
The best I’ve had comes from Williams Ranches of Sebastopol. It is so incredibly tender and, when it is poached, it is fairly easy to peel, which is important. You’ll find Williams Ranches meat for sale at the Santa Rosa farmers market on Saturdays.
A couple of weeks ago, I bought all they had at the Santa Rosa farmers market, which was maybe 8, possibly 9, tongues. I enjoyed them three ways.
First, I poached the tongue in gently simmering water that I seasoned with kosher salt, white peppercorns, black peppercorns, a couple of allspice berries, 1 whole clove and a couple of sprigs of Italian parsley. It took about an hour for the tongues to be as tender as I like them. I cooled them in the poaching liquid until they were easy to handle and then I pulled off the tough skin.
While I was peeled the tongues, I simmered a couple of medium potatoes (peeled, cut in chunks) in the poaching liquid until tender. I stored everything, the peeled tongue, the potatoes, in the liquid over night.
The next day I enjoyed a couple of tacos lengua, with the tongue cut into smallish chunks and topped with a squeeze of lime juice, some minced onion, Triple T Farms jalapeño hot sauce and chopped fresh cilantro. Beyond delicious.
Next, I transfer the potatoes to a bowl, cut several of the remaining tongues into 1/4-inch thick slices and added lots of chopped Italian parsley, a minced shallot, very good olive oil, a generous squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper and served it over frisee, for lunch. It was so good I had what was left for dinner.
Now, what about that poaching liquid and the two tongues I had left?
I soaked a third of a cup of barley over night in water. In the morning, I sautéed half a minced onion and 2 or 3 small carrots (cut into 1/8-inch dice) in a little olive oil, strained the liquid into the pot, drained and rinsed the barley, added it and simmered it all very gently until the barley was tender, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, I cut the remaining tongue into 1/4-inch dice and when the barley was almost tender I added it to the pot and simmered the soup for another five minutes or so. This simple soup is a cousin, so to speak, of Scotch Broth . My only regret is that there wasn’t more of it.
Here’s a link to a favorite recipe for lamb tongue from the Seasonal Pantry archives:
For a recipe similar to Scotch Broth:
If you’re feeling ambitious, consider a Haggis, with lamb tongue: