When it comes to exciting members of the animal kingdom, it’s hard to beat a bull. In rodeos, the encierro of Pamplona, and bullfights, these beautiful beasts snort and stomp their way to glory. Ken Oringer’s two-year-old South End tapas joint Toro (“bull” in Spanish) does the same with more than a bit of bravura and machismo thrown into the mix.
On the other hand, cows are not the most exhilarating denizens of the farmyard. Aside from swatting the occasional fly, often their only activity is eating. As a result, cows’ tongues get a pretty hefty workout, yielding highly flavorful but extraordinarily tough protein. But of all the melt-in-your-mouth dishes in the city, Toro’s lengua con lentejas y salsa verde may well be the meltingest. So how does this transformation take place?
After getting the corned-beef treatment (they’re pickled in brine), the tongues are packed in a wet cure of salt, onion, herbs, and other aromatics and allowed to rest for a minimum of 12 hours to form a strong flavor base for the onslaught to come. Next day: a plunge into a vat of rendered flavored duck fat, in which they slowly cook à la duck confit for several hours at a hot-bath temperature. Once the exterior skin starts to loosen up, it’s carefully exfoliated to reveal the bright pink meat underneath — meaning it’s probably had a better spa treatment than you ever will. After chilling (the hot tongue is so tender it’ll fall apart at the slightest touch of a knife), it’s sliced thick before getting a final simmer in vegetable stock.
The complex meaty, vegetal, briny, duck-fatty flavors are interesting enough on their own, but paired with a sweet-tart herbal salsa verde and tender-yet-intact lentils spiked with sherry vinegar, they become something worth wrapping your tongue around again and again.
Available for $11 at Toro, 1704 Washington Street, in Boston. Call 617.536.4300.