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Charcutepalooza March Challenge: Corned Ox-Tongue and Ox-Heart

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Our March Challenge #charcutepalooza post is twice tardy. It is late because posts were due on the 15th and, with most everyone making corned beef, yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day in North America has long been synonymous with a rustic bowl of corned beef and cabbage, which lends to corned beef and hash the next morning. Thing is, what is more authentic is Irish stew, made from lamb, potato, and onion. Corned beef and cabbage may actually be a new world innovation.

Still, this month’s challenge from Michael Ruhlman’s book, Charcuterie, was to brine something. We are writing up our attempt at corned ox-tongue and ox-heart, which Jenn and I accidentally attempted a month early, in February (shhhh!).

Another confession, we didn’t use Ruhlman’s recipe for corned beef. We sort of adhered to the technique though. Instead, we attempted the corned beef tongue recipe from the Playing With Fire and Water blog, a food blog I have been following for years.

As we did not deviate significantly in our take, we suggest you visit the source for the recipe and follow along.

What we particularly liked about this recipe is the “cleansing” step, post “corning”-phase, to remove excess salt.

The result, something we hope is a respectful homage to the corned tongue grilled cheese sandwich we never had at Toronto’s now closed Hoof Cafe (923 Dundas St W).

Non-Grilled Cheese Corned Ox-Tongue Sandwich with Kozlik's Sweet Russian Mustard

Non-Grilled Cheese Corned Ox-Tongue Sandwich with Kozlik’s Sweet Russian Mustard

The Hoof Cafe’s last service was held at the end of February. It is now shut down and being renovated to create Black Hoof & Company, which will be a restaurant equal to the original Black Hoof, across the street.

Before we start with the ox-tongue and ox-heart, let us start with the bread. We ended up sandwiching thinly sliced corned ox-tongue with rosemary focaccia. While I love focaccia sandwiches, this wasn’t intentional. It was more coincidence.

The week we attempted corned ox-tongue and ox-heart, we were also attempting recipes from celebrated wine and food writer Natalie MacLean’s (@nataliemaclean) upcoming cookbook. It so happened one of them was for a quick and easy focaccia.

While the recipe from her manuscript worked, we needed something that would rise a tad higher, so we could split it, and sandwich something in between.

Enter Master Baker/Chef Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. From its pages, we made a poolish-based rosemary focaccia.

Poolish

Poolish

Results of Careful Stretching and Fermentation

Results of Careful Stretching and Fermentation

Finished Baking

Finished Baking

Much Taller Focaccia

Much Taller Focaccia

Texture

Texture

While we’re not sure how many home cooks are going to be playing with starters, requiring a day’s fermentation and several hours working the dough, the resultant focaccia was worth the investment of time to me. Our bread rose a tad more than is acceptable for a focaccia, but it had a well developed flavour.

For the sandwich filling, we brined one whole ox-tongue and half an ox-heart, separately in their own zip-top bags for 7 days.

Brining Ox-Tongue and Ox-Heart

Brining Ox-Tongue and Ox-Heart

The brine consisted of 2 qts (8 cups) water, in which 12 oz kosher salt, 4 oz brown sugar, 3 bay leaves, 2 tsp black peppercorns, 1 tbsp allspice berries, and 1 tsp dried thyme were added. To dissolve the salt and sugar, the water was heated to boiling. Then, the mixture was cooled and split into two bags.

Every 2 days, we turned the bags over to ensure even exposure to the brine.

After a week’s brining, we swapped the brine out for an equal volume of cold water and soaked the ox-tongue and ox-heart overnight.

Removing Excess Salt

Removing Excess Salt

Finally, we cooked the ox-tongue and ox-heart in a slow cooker with 2 stalks of celery, 2 large onions and enough water to cover.

Setting up the Ox-Tongue and Ox-Hear to Braise

Setting up the Ox-Tongue and Ox-Hear to Braise

Sealing with Alluminium Foil and Setting to Low

Sealing with Alluminium Foil and Setting to Low

The ox-tongue and ox-heart were simmered for 6 hours.

While hot, the skin from the ox-tongue was removed.

Carefully Skinning the Ox-Tongue

Carefully Skinning the Ox-Tongue

Finally, everything was left to cool to a handle-able temperature and wrapped in plastic wrap to chill overnight.

Ox-Tongue and Ox-Heart Cooling

Ox-Tongue and Ox-Heart Cooling

Without sodium nitrite curing salt, corned meats do not retain the characteristic pinkness. For us, it didn’t matter.

To serve, we sliced the ox-tongue thin and prepared our take above.

Slicing Thin

Slicing Thin

The ox-tongue was gently spiced, seasoned, and actually took on the texture of a terrine. The ox-heart, having been corned skinless, was a little over-seasoned. We ate it, sliced, with rice and Chinese greens.

It so happened, the day we wrapped and refrigerated our ox-tongue and ox-heart, I was chatting with the Chef/Owner Tracey Black (@epicuriadotca) of Epicuria Fine Food Store and Catering (419 Mackay Street). She described a sandwich she had as a little girl, made with boiled and sliced ox-tongue.

Jenn and I decided to prepare a take for our friend. We carved out squares of focaccia and plated a “lunch box”, photographed it, and sent our best shot to her.

Focaccia Squares

Focaccia Squares

Lunchbox

Lunchbox

Would Jenn and I attempt corned ox-tongue again? Without hesitation!

Up next month (April’s Charcutepalooza Challenge), something hot-smoked.

Aside: Epicuria is one of the businesses affected by the Beechwood fire that leveled a building in the neighbourhood. The fire caused neighbouring businesses smoke damage, water damage, and flooding. Chef Black, being the resourceful business person she is, already has off-site kitchen and storage facilities lined-up. Our thoughts go to Chef Black and her staff on their upcoming challenge recovering Epicuria and re-opening.

Mild-mannered IT professional by day and food blogger by night, I founded foodiePrints with a single intention, to share my love of all things food. My first post shared a recipe. Many followed. Eventually, I learned Ottawa prepares and serves great food. Thereafter, I started meeting restaurateurs, chefs, cooks, farmers, and other local producers, all good people. Ideas for food-related content swirled in my head. foodiePrints grew into a place to put them. From exploring foreign and domestic cuisines to shopping for exotic ingredients and cobbling together my takes on dishes in my meager kitchen, there are stories to tell. Welcome to foodiePrints. Here, you will find stories about food and drink, cooking, and eating in Canada’s capital. Be it food-related or just food-for-thought, I hope you find something tasty here.

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