The first time I ate cow tongue I was 12 years old. My sister was 3 and my brother was a baby. I had a somewhat developed palate for certain types of food. I want to think my palate was adventurous and unconventional for a 12 year old. I mean, there were things I would not dare to eat – and probably to this date I may not. Like cow brains for instance. I’ll leave those to Andrew Zimmern. However, cow tongue and other organ meats – THAT I can do. My younger sister on the other hand, would scream bloody murder if she knew that on a particular day we were eating lengua – after discovering that one day she had eaten it unbeknownst to her.
My nanny used to prepare cow tongue in such way that was tender and citrusy sweet. That first time we had IT, my sister ate it all. We made no mention as to what IT was. My sister was (and still is) the pickiest eater ever, and we knew it would be a disaster if we let her know what she ate. But on that date, she ate IT. Our nanny took a pair of kitchen scissors and cut the tongue into itty-bitty tiny pieces so there was no way to decipher what they were, masked among the sauce and the rice. All we told my sister was, “Es carne! Te gusta, no?” The next time around, she accidentally overheard me ask our nanny what we were eating for dinner, to which she responded, “Hoy comemos lengua”. The next thing I remember is hearing a scream and a wail – as if the gates of hell had opened and the dead had clawed and crawled up from the bellies of the earth. And that was that. IT was no more. From that day forward, while the rest of us ate cow tongue, my sister ate seco de pollo.
I made cow tongue for the very first time when El Señor Hubs and I moved to the New York metro area about 8 years ago. Host to basically the largest melting pot in the world, it is relatively easy to find meat cuts or spices that had been out of my reach before. I recall when I spotted cow tongue at the supermarket for the first time, I almost broke into a happy dance. AT the supermarket. I waited until I got home to break into the happy dance, cow tongue flapping in hand. El Señor Hubs wasn’t too keen on the idea of eating lengua. But that was then. Now he’s a pro. AND he even helps me in the preparation! Now, I also buy veal instead of cow tongue; a cow tongue is too much for just the two of us. For those who’ve never had lengua before, in El Señor Hubs’ words, “lengua is a bit gamey, a bit chewy, but not stringy which is very imprortant”. The way I make it does a good job at eliminating any gaminess and it is so tender it almost melts in your mouth. My lengua recipe is finger-LICKING good. Yes, I meant that.