Paley's Crisp Pan-Fried Lamb Tongue with Spicy Saffron Aioli

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From Vitaly Paley, Chef/Owner, Paley’s Place

Serves 6
Local sources of lamb tongue include Nicky USA and Cattail Creek Lamb.

1 cup Kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 qt cold water
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
5 bay leaves
1/4 cup black peppercorns
6 whole lamb tongues

1/2 bottle dry white wine
1 qt cold water
1 large carrot, chopped coarsely
1 whole onion, peeled
1 whole clove
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup black peppercorns

3 large garlic cloves
1 tsp sea salt
Large pinch cayenne
Large pinch saffron threads
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 egg yolks
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup grapeseed oil
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp smoky Spanish paprika
Pinch of cayenne
1 tsp sea salt
12 grindings black pepper
3 whole eggs
1 cup fine bread crumbs
2 cup grapeseed oil

To make the brine, select a large pot, add all the ingredients, and bring the liquid to a rolling boil. Shut the heat off and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Transfer the tongues to the container in which they will refrigerate, pour the brine over the meat, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours.

The next day, prepare the court bouillon for poaching the tongues. Add equal parts water and wine to a 3-quart pot, add carrot, onion, clove, salt and pepper, and bring the liquid to a boil. Simmer for about 30 minutes to develop flavor. Slip the brined tongues into the poaching liquid and simmer gently for two hours. Discard the brining liquid. When a knife inserts easily into the meat, remove the tongues to a cutting board. To reuse the poaching liquid, strain and refrigerate; it will hold for about a week.

Trim and clean the tongues of gristle, fat and bone while the meat is still warm. Use a small paring knife to separate the outer membrane to reveal the inner meat. Set them aside while you prepare the aioli.

Start the aioli by crushing the garlic with the back of a knife and remove the peel. Add the cloves to a mortar along with the salt. Using the pestle to press against the sides of the bowl, work the garlic for about a minute until it forms a glistening paste. Add the cayenne and saffron threads and continue mashing another minute until the saffron turns the mixture bright orange. Add the mustard, egg yolks, and lemon juice, and blend the ingredients for 30 seconds until smooth.

Dribble a tablespoon of the grapeseed oil into the mortar with one hand while using the pestle in the other hand to fully incorporate the oil. This is where patience matters. Repeat, incorporating a second tablespoon until the mixture is homogenous, then once again with a third tablespoon. At this point, the emulsion should be ready to accept additional oil easily. Slowly drizzle in the remaining oil with the same swirling motion of the pestle to maintain the emulsion. Watch the surface of the mixture to see that the oil you’ve added is completely absorbed before adding more. When all the grapeseed oil is incorporated, add the extra-virgin olive oil in the same manner. Because salt can make the difference between flavor that is good and flavor that is great, stir in a pinch of salt, taste, and adjust if necessary.

To bread the tongues, arrange three small bowls side by side on the work surface. In the first bowl, sift together the flour, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Crack the eggs into the second bowl and beat them with a fork until frothy. Place the crumbs in the third bowl.

Pick up a tongue and dredge it evenly in the flour, then shake off the excess. Drop it into the egg bowl. Use the other hand to transfer it from the egg bowl to the crumb bowl. Once covered in crumbs, place the tongue on a wire rack. Repeat the breading process with the remaining pieces. To keep the flour and crumbs from clumping, use one hand for dry ingredients, the other for wet.

A 9-inch skillet should be large enough to hold all the tongues without crowding. Add 1/2 inch of oil and place the pan on high heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees. Lower the heat to medium-high, place the breaded tongues in the oil, and fry until they are uniformly golden, about 45 seconds to a minute. Turn the tongues, making sure the crumbs don’t burn. When the desired color is achieved, transfer the tongues to a plate lined with a paper towel and immediately season with a light sprinkling of sea salt.

Place one tongue on a cutting board and slice it on the diagonal into finger-thick slices. Arrange the slices on a plate, and serve immediately, accompanied by a small bowl of spicy saffron aioli.

2005 Soter, North Valley Rosé, Yamhill-Carlton District, Oregon
For the rich, gamy flavor of the tongue and the sweet, smoky flavor of aioli, I think this wine is spot on. The Soter Rosé has floral, red fruit characteristics (think raspberry/cranberry) to play off the tongue, low acid, and a hint of sweetness to complement the aioli. Easy drinking.

Printed with permission from the upcoming book, Paley’s Place Cookbook, by Vitaly and Kimberly Paley with Robert Reynolds (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA). Available Fall 2008. Copyright © Vitaly and Kimberly Paley.

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