The key to cooking a good beef tongue dish is to make sure that the meat has no strong smell by the time it lands on your plate. It should also be properly trimmed and melt-in-the-mouth tender.
Granted, accomplishing all that takes time. Beef tongue takes hours to cook. But if you do the work in segments, cooking beef tongue becomes less intimidating.
Cook the tongue a day ahead, let it cool slowly in the cooking liquid, scoop out, chill overnight in the fridge if you have time, then peel so that it’s ready to be cooked with mushrooms and Bechamel sauce.
You’ll need fresh button mushrooms for this dish. Canned just doesn’t work because there’s no flavor left to be squeezed out and because you just can’t brown mushrooms that have been sitting in brine for a long time. You’ll also need real butter to saute garlic and the mushrooms. Not margarine. Not butter substitute. Real butter.
And you’ll need more butter to brown the fully cooked beef tongue slices. This stage gives the tongue better texture due to caramelization. Instead of having a mouth feel of boiled meat, a thin crust forms on the surface which transforms the texture in a serious way.
And then, you’ll need some more butter to make roux which forms the base of Bechamel sauce. To prevent the sauce from acquiring an overwhelming taste of cream and losing the beefy flavor, a little broth is added. It can be the liquid in which the tongue has been cooked. Or, if you find that still too strong in smell, use plain beef broth.
The cream goes in next. It won’t be Bechamel sauce, after all, without the cream. After the cream is added, the sauce is simmered until thickened and no longer leaves a flour-y sensation in the mouth.
The browned garlic, button mushrooms and beef tongue slices are tossed in the Bechamel sauce and the dish is done.
Beef tongue and mushrooms in Bechamel sauce
- Melt two tablespoons butter in a frying pan.
- Saute the garlic just until starting to brown along the edges.
- Dump in the mushroom slices, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms lose their raw appearance.
- Scoop out the garlic and mushrooms (leave the butter in the pan) and set aside.
- Melt two more tablespoons butter in the pan.
- Arrange the beef tongue slices in a single layer in the hot butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Cook until the undersides are lightly browned then flip to brown the opposite sides.
- Scoop out the beef tongue and set aside.
- Melt the remaining two tablespoons butter in the pan.
- Sprinkle in the flour and stir quickly to make a roux. Cook for a few minutes until starting to brown.
- Pour the broth in a thin stream, stirring as you pour. Cook until the mixture thickens.
- Pour in the cream and stir.
- Arrange the browned beef tongue in the simmering sauce with the mushrooms and garlic on top.
- Simmer until everything is heated through.
- Scoop the beef tongue slices, mushrooms, garlic and Bechamel sauce into bowls and serve.