I have never eaten tongue in my life, nor have I expressed a desire to do so. But of course if I am given a raw food material and told that it is mine, that is essentially, a challenge. And I decided, as I had heard of this in New York but had never tried it, that I would make tongue pastrami.
Reuben sandwiches are one of those pleasures that are very infrequent in my life, they're up there with boneless buffalo wings and good Japanese noodles. There are only so many restaurants that do reubens right, and I have not found one in Denver. Plus, I'm one of those freaks that usually doesn't eat meat, so that complicates things more.
I didn't use any particular recipe for this, just read a lot of food blogs and instructional tips. By the end when I was ready to smoke the sucker I had serious doubts that this would turn out well, since I had never smoked a thing in my life, much less used a charcoal grill.
But...OH MY GOD it was delicious. If you want to achieve happiness, follow the recipe below:
-1 cow tongue, rinsed
-1 gallon hot water
-1 cup salt
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-4 bay leaves
-1 tablespoon pickling spice (I used the Savory Spice Shop one, it has cinnamon, peppercorns, mustard seeds, ginger, coriander, dill, mace, allspice, juniper berries, cloves, chiles, and bay leaves)
-5 cloves garlic, crushed
-1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
-1 tablespoon peppercorns
-1 tablespoon coriander seeds
-2 tablespoons pickling spice (see above, best pickling spice ever)
-1 bag regular charcoal (not self-lighting)
-1 chimney-style charcoal starter (these are super cheap, mine was $8)
-paper sprayed with oil
-1 bag applewood chips (found this at Lowes)
To prepare the brine, bring the water to a boil, add all the ingredients, stir to dissolve, and set aside to cool. Once cool, submerge the cow tongues and put a plate or steamer basket on top to keep them submerged. Put in the fridge and let sit for five to seven days. This is to corn the tongue.
When ready, remove from brine and discard the brine. At this point, I did not want to boil the tongue to remove the skin since I wanted to only cook it on the grill, so I cut the skin and the weird membrane on the bottom of the tongue off. I also cut the tongue into two even chunks, the big top part and the littler tip. To cut the skin from the smaller part, I had to cut it lengthwise, and then roll it as I cut it, and that worked pretty well. This was probably the most complicated part of the whole endeavor.
Before preparing the rub, start the charcoal in your starter by putting the oiled, crumpled paper in the bottom section and filling the top till an inch from the brim with charcoal, and light the bottom on several sides until everything catches. There should be a lot of smoke. Let this sit to light all the charcoal, it's not ready till the flames reach the top. Put your wood chips in a bowl to soak. This helps them not burn up immediately. In the grill, remove the grate, form foil into a tray to catch any sediment or drippings from the pastrami on one side, and put a little water in it (not too much, maybe half a cup).
Throw the rub ingredients in a spice grinder. I ground until they were only slightly coarse. Dump this on the tongues and pat it onto every surface.
When your charcoal is ready, put the charcoal on the opposite side of the grill from the foil tray. Replace the grill, and wait for the flames to dissipate (there should be no flames when cooking the pastrami). When the flames are gone, put the meat (big chunk closer to the fire) on the grill as far away from the charcoal as possible. You want it to cook verrrry slowly. Grab a handful of wood chips, shake to remove excess water, and sprinkle these over the coals. Close the grill and make sure that there is at least a tiny place in the grill where smoke can escape.
Every hour, turn the pastrami over and add more wood chips. The small piece should be done after 2-3 hours, and the big piece (for me) took about 5.5 hours. After 3 hours I had to start and add more charcoal, take the pastrami off the grill until it was cool, and restart the process.
I didn't use thermometers cause I don't have them, but the temperature was probably hot enough to be considered "hot smoking" where the temperatures are 160-225 degrees Farenheit, rather than the traditional "cold smoking" around 90 degrees that is done for pastrami. The meat was done when it was stiff to the touch. When finished cooking, let rest for 30min to an hour. Slice as thin as possible, and eat on rye bread with sauerkraut, thousand island, and swiss cheese. The meat turned out incredibly juicy, completely hit my pastrami spot. I am one happy girl...