Not without horror I stood grunting with my right index finger in the hole I had just made in the stiff white sheet with the grey-brown dots. But no matter how much I tried to tear that slippery membrane from the underlying gray muscle meat, it didn’t give a single fuck. Only then did I realize that I had made a crucial mistake.
What can I say? It was my very first tongue. I had never prepared one. In fact, I can’t even remember ever eating sole, ox, beef or veal tongue. A gap in my culinary education, yes, but one that has now been filled thanks to you, dear reader. No fewer than seven people sent me the request to pay attention to this forgotten organ meat in our classic series. Today is the day.
Perhaps it is useful that I am such an inexperienced sole preparer. First, because you can learn from my mistakes, about which more later. But also because you’re more likely to believe me now when I confess that I was also a little scared at first to hold in my hands a giant version of something that’s in my own mouth, a piece of meat that looks so undeniably functional, including papillae and all. However, that turned out to be something you can just get over yourself. And once I did, I suddenly viewed that same piece of muscle tissue as something very valuable.
Of course, you can philosophize long and wide about how desirable it is to eat animals at all. (That say once a month when I include meat or fish in my recipes is always good for a pile of letters to the editor from outraged vegetarians and vegans.) But let’s approach that tongue from the carnivore’s point of view. I see it this way: whoever chooses to eat meat should actually eat all the parts of the animal. Also the parts with a slippery skin and visible papillae.
All right, if we agree on that, we can get started. First let’s talk about the mistakes I made. My butcher had explained exactly how to cook the sole, including the advice to check after 90 minutes whether the skin on the tip came off easily and with the instruction to peel the tongue as warm as possible afterwards. What happened is that, as is often the case, I grossly overestimated my own multi-tasking abilities and, when the timer went off after an hour and a half, scattered the tongue fish out of the pan and let it cool on a cutting board while I worried about other things. Result: an undercooked, cold tongue, leading to the scenario from the first paragraph of this piece.
Luckily it all worked out after I let the reluctant tongue cook for another thirty minutes in the now deliciously fragrant broth. Well cooked and still warm, the skin was really easy to peel off and what you’re left with is just a very tasty piece of meat. Tender, soft, delicate. I can understand the readers who asked for it: sole is a delicacy, and, also because every animal has only one to forgive, a piece of meat that cannot be appreciated enough.
Most requests were for veal tongue with Madeira sauce. Although I can also imagine a lot with sole (served cold or not) with a remoulade-like sauce, or horseradish sauce, I gladly complied with this request. What I hum: a classic with class.
Kalfstong in madeirasaus
The best temperature to cook a sole is between 85 and 90 degrees. You can use a cooking thermometer or go by feel and eye. Bubbling water is too hot. When that happens, remove the pan from the heat, wait about ten minutes, and then put it back. You will have at least a liter of fragrant stock left over from this recipe, which you can use for soup or risotto, for example.
For 4 persons:
1 stuk kalfsbot (500 g);
1 veal tongue, prepared for cooking by the butcher;
1 onion, with skin cut into quarters;
1 tsp peppercorns;
1 (worms) laurierblaadje;
3 sprigs of thyme;
3 sprigs of parsley plus 2 tbsp (curly) parsley, finely chopped;
50 g of butter;
2 shallots, chopped;
1 tbsp (half a small can) tomato paste;
30 g flour;
150 ml plus 1 el madeira,
350 g white mushrooms, quartered.
Leg the veal bone and tongue in a stockpot and pour 3 liters of cold water on top. Add 2 teaspoons salt, the onion, peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme and parsley sprigs. Let the water come to a boil, but do not boil. Set the pan to your lowest heat – use a simmering plate if necessary – and let the sole cook gently for 90 minutes.
Vis remove the tongue from the stock and make a small cut in the tip. Try to see if the skin comes off easily. If not, put it back in the pan and check again after 15-30 minutes. Allow the cooked sole to cool slightly until it can be peeled with bare hands – the colder, the harder it is. Remove the white skin and allow the meat to cool further. Store in the refrigerator until the next day. Let the stock steep for a few more hours – the longer, the tastier the sauce will be. Then strain it, let it cool down and put it in the fridge as well.
spade the next day, remove the solidified fat from the stock and bring the stock to a boil again. Melt 30 grams of butter in a saucepan and fry the shallots until blond. Add the tomato paste and sauté for 1 minute. Add the flour and fry for 1 minute. Measure 450 ml of hot stock and pour into the roux, little by little, stirring constantly, to create a thick sauce. Add 150 ml madeira and bring to the boil. Turn the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Smelt the remaining 20 grams of butter in a frying pan and add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Fry the mushrooms over medium heat for 10 minutes until tender and light brown. Place the veal tongue in the remaining, hot stock – the fire under the stock pot can now be turned off – and let it get warm.
Schenk the Madeira sauce through a sieve and back into the saucepan. Stir the mushrooms into the sauce and add 1 more tablespoon of Madeira. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Fish the veal tongue from the stock and cut the meat crosswise into slices of about 5 mm. Serve with the Madeira sauce.