Monday, March 1, 2010

Smoked Ox Tongue Omelette with Carmalized Onions, Anjou Pears, and Roquefort

No clever arrangement of bad eggs ever made a good omelet. - CS Lewis
This dish had quite the involvement. The hardest part being the feature of the dish -a cows tongue. I was perusing the grocery store as I often do on my day off, hoping to be inspired by some sort of odd ingredient and after pouring through my many cook books, searching the internet, getting the necessary information, and techniques ready to transform the unknown, and ugly into something beautiful. That is when I saw it, lurking in the corner of a meat department, looking forlorn and in need of some love and attention. I quickly snatched this up and began the thought process.

The first part of this dish involved learning what I could do with an Ox tongue. I thought about braising, boiling, but that was far to simple of a process, and any opportunity I have to work on charcuterie I am going to jump all over it. I only had one day off, and another a week later. The natural choice here was to brine the tongue, and think about what to do with it over the course of a week. I used the brine recipe out of Ruhlman's Ratio. Remember when your ingredient list starts to look more like a science experiment, then a recipe pay particular attention to measurement. Too much sodium nitrate (pink salt) will kill someone, and too little could cause botulism poisoning. As this was destined to be cooked the nitrates were not necessary, however it will make the meat nice and rosy. This was brined with peppercorns, salt, pink salt, garlic, thyme, onion, and I think that was about it -pretty classic French brine. It was left in the brine for a week, turning, and weighting down every so often.

After the brine, the tongue was rinsed off, put into a pot with aromatics, and braised for three or four hours. This process will break down all the collagen to gelatin, and make the meat tender to eat. It also separates the thick skin off the tongue to be peeled. I had a little bit of apprehension about peeling the tongue on account of never doing it before. After the tongue has been boiled allow it to cool enough that you can comfortably touch it, yet is still hot. Begin by using a pairing knife to peel the tongue, once you have a bit removed its really easy to pull off with your hands. The skin is very very tough, and much like thin leather, I airmailed it to a Nike factory in South America for use in shoes - I loathe throwing things out.

I allowed the tongue to cool overnight, and then to air dry to form whatever pellicle I could on it. For the first time I was happy it is Canada and in winter, cold smoking would be a breeze. The tongue spent six or seven hours in the smoker and stayed at a fairly steady 20 degrees Celsius. The end product had a texture and taste very similar to a summer sausage, yet not as potent. Now that I had a great ingredient it was time to think about what to do with it. My first idea was to use it as an amuse bouche, with a horseradish aoili, however I could not find fresh horseradish anywhere, still might make this at work one day and snap a pic. The next thing I did after my tiring day of going grocery store to grocery store in a snow storm, looking for horseradish was make a Smoked tongue sandwich with Dijon, on Danish Rye. This was a tasty sandwich however I thought the tongue would do better with a hot preparation.

This dish was conceived one morning before work, looking through the fridge for leftovers. My fridge was looking pretty bare, there was duck confit in the corner, roquefort, beer, leftover bottle of wine, eggs, butter, and whatever condiments I deem allowable in my fridge. So I figured beef and blue cheese go together well, I should use up the rest of that wine before it sours, and I had eggs. An omelet was a natural choice for a before work snack. The onions were caramelized up and the wine reduced in them. I then added diced tongue and allowed that to cook, and crisp up. These were thrown into an omelet and Roquefort was crumbled on top. I took one bite and realized I had struck gold! After telling my chef about it, he suggested I throw in some pears into the mix. So many days later  I did. The pears were caramelized up with a bit of sugar and white wine vinegar, then folded in with the omelet filling. Possibly the tastiest conception I had come up with in a long time, but as they say necessity is the mother of all invention.