When we ordered beef tongue for one of our Chicago-Mexican recipes, we requested a 2- to 3-pounder. But our butcher mistakenly sent us several veal tongues instead—smaller, decidedly more attractive, and (we thought) easier to work with than the giant, unruly muscle we were expecting. We were, in a way, relieved. But when we tested the veal tongue in our recipe, its flavor was pale. Rick Bayless, author of our Chicago-Mexican story, informed us that beef was tastier and more authentic, so we reordered and retested—and indeed, we preferred the beef tongue's richer flavor against the sharp, citrusy tomatillo sauce that accompanied it. And the beef tongue was surprisingly easy to prepare.
1. COOK Rinse raw tongue, then boil in seasoned water until tender when pierced with a skewer (2½–4 hours, depending on size; see recipe), skimming foam as it cooks.
2. PEEL Make a shallow incision on the side of the thick end of the tongue to begin peeling off the coarse top layer of skin. (Tongue will be easier to peel while still warm.)
3. TRIM Cut away fatty section, all gristle, and any bones along bottom and sides of thick end of tongue, until you are left with only the clean, dark meat. Slice according to recipe.