I’m here to boldly encourage you to try something entirely different at your Rosh Hashanah table this year. No, not a pony. A new food. Serve it, to non-vegetarians. And, if anybody asks what they’re eating, confidently tell them it’s a family secret. Don’t forget to mention that, if you tell them, you’ll have to kill them. That generally stops people in their nosy tracks. Let me be perfectly transparent: the food I’m about to suggest is on the meat spectrum. Alright, meat adjacent.
Isn’t it enough that everyone’s oohing and ahhing over the unparalleled tenderness of the dish? The specifics are strictly on a need-to-know basis. And no one needs to know. Except your butcher. OK, enough. It’s beef tongue. You heard correctly. I’m aware it’s not politically correct – after all, some farmer is clearly stifling free speech. Even if it only belongs to a cow. (And, technically, they can’t speak anyway. So moot point.)
Just so we’re clear, beef tongue is definitely not vegan. Or vegetarian-friendly. Not by a New York mile. I’m simply providing you with an alternative to screaming chicken, Coca-Cola brisket and mayo-slathered, onion soup-mix salmon.
I know that beef tongue screams old school (and Council cookbook). But so do I. And, if we’re going to be honest about it, people are still enthusiastically scarfing down ketchup-glazed meatloaf and baked salami filled with French’s mustard. They’re just not yelling it from the rooftops. So, loosen up and try thinking of beef tongue as a distant relative. Second cousin twice removed. Only maybe a little farther. But, still, meat mishpachah.
Before you pooh-pooh it, give it a shot. At least Google it and see what other Jews have to say about it. Most delis sell it pickled. But, believe me, pickled tongue has nothing on the sweet and sour version. Personally, I prefer to just boil it, cool it and eat it in a sandwich. With yellow mustard. On white bread. I can see the lynch mob in the distance.
The cooking part is where it gets tricky. If you’re a man, chances are you can’t relate to what I’m about to describe. You ladies, on the other hand, will understand perfectly. The cooking per se is easy (see recipe below). The next part is where it gets awkward. Once it’s cooked, you need to peel off the rubbery outside skin: think of taking off a pair of too-thick, too-tight pantyhose. That are wet. And it’s a hot, humid day. Not a particularly appealing visual, but it’s fairly accurate hyperbole.
Trust me when I tell you that your family/guests will be drooling all over themselves, demanding the recipe – if they can get past the sordid cooking details. Without further ado, here goes. And don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the recipe. You’re welcome.
SWEET AND SOUR BEEF TONGUE
1 beef tongue
2 onions, peeled and quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
2 bay leaves
15 oz can of tomato sauce
15 oz water
3/4 cup brown sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup sultana or dark raisins
dash of Worcestershire sauce (optional)
salt and pepper
Put the tongue and the rest of the ingredients into a deep pot with enough water to cover it well. Bring to a boil and simmer partly covered for about three-and-a-half hours, until tender when pierced with a fork. As it’s cooking, skim off the shmootz that forms on top. When tender, remove from the water. While it’s still warm, remove the skin (see detailed, gross description above), bones and stem. Slice and serve as is, or slice and serve with the sweet and sour sauce.
At the end of the day, a well-cooked beef tongue is all you need and nothing you don’t. But, I get that some of you are disgusted at the thought of eating tongue. So, for you finicky folks, I offer up another old school recipe – short ribs. This one is decades old and was handed down from my father’s cousin, Bertha Bloom. Nobody said it was diet food, so, if you’re not fussy about calories, go for it. Short ribs are notorious for being fatty, but therein lies most of their charm. Alright, all of their charm. You’ll diet tomorrow. And, hopefully, not die of clogged arteries tonight. But, have your cardiologist on speed dial, just in case.
BERT BLOOM’S BARBEQUE SHORT RIBS
Season two pounds of short ribs with salt, pepper and garlic salt then broil them until brown and half cooked. Transfer them to a covered Dutch oven (or similar deep roasting pan). For the sauce:
1 cup chili sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
4 tsp dry mustard
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp soy sauce
small tin of crushed pineapple
Mix the ingredients together – including the juice from the pineapple tin, but not the pineapple – put in a pot and bring to a boil. Pour the sauce over the ribs and cook covered at 300°F to 325°F for one-and-a-half to two hours, basting occasionally. Add the crushed pineapple 20 minutes before it’s finished cooking and leave uncovered. Prepare to be awed by the yumminess factor.
For your guests who prefer healthy food, you may want to direct them elsewhere for Rosh Hashanah dinner. Or, if you’re a really nice and accommodating host, make them a marinated tofu mock-roast. Or a Tofurkey. But, for those of you indulging in the short ribs, now might be a good time to loosen your belt or unzip your skirt, and prepare to stuff your belly. It’s Rosh Hashanah. Celebrate with some new arterial stents! Tell Dr. Saul I sent you.
Shelley Civkin, aka the Accidental Balabusta, is a happily retired librarian and communications officer. For 17 years, she wrote a weekly book review column for the Richmond Review. She’s currently a freelance writer and volunteer.