Step-by-Step Guide to Making Boiled Cow’s Head

Boiled Cow's Head (Tête de Veau)


Tête de Veau, or boiled cow’s head, is a classic French delicacy that has been a part of the country’s culinary tradition for centuries. While it might seem like an unconventional dish to some, it is a revered treat for gourmands who appreciate the rich, tender meat and unique flavors that this dish offers. In this step-by-step guide to making Boiled Cow’s Head, we’ll take you on a journey into the heart of French cuisine, where you’ll learn how to prepare this iconic dish from scratch.

Before We Begin: A Few Words of Caution

It’s important to note that preparing Tête de Veau is not for the faint of heart or inexperienced home cooks. The complexity of working with a cow’s head, along with the necessity of sourcing specific ingredients, requires some culinary skill and a strong stomach. Be prepared for a culinary adventure that involves precision, patience, and a willingness to embrace the full spectrum of flavors and textures that this dish has to offer.

Ingredients You’ll Need:

For the Tête de Veau:

1. 1 whole cow’s head, cleaned and skinned (typically available at specialty butchers)
2. 2 onions, peeled and halved
3. 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4. 2 celery stalks, chopped
5. 1 leek, cleaned and chopped
6. 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
7. A bouquet garni (a bundle of fresh herbs like thyme, bay leaves, and parsley tied together)
8. Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
9. 1 bottle of dry white wine
10. Water, enough to cover the head
11. 2-3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar

For the Sauce Gribiche:

1. 3 large hard-boiled eggs
2. 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3. 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4. 1/2 cup of good-quality olive oil
5. 2 tablespoons of capers, chopped
6. 2 tablespoons of cornichons, chopped
7. 1 small shallot, minced
8. 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped
9. Salt and pepper to taste

For Serving:

1. Mashed potatoes, for a classic pairing
2. Fresh crusty bread

Step 1: Preparing the Cow’s Head

1. Acquire a cleaned and skinned cow’s head: You’ll need to source a cleaned and skinned cow’s head from a specialty butcher. Ensure that the head is properly cleaned and free of any hair or debris.

2. Blanch the head: In a large stockpot, place the cow’s head and cover it with cold water. Add a bottle of dry white wine and 2-3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes to remove any impurities. Drain the head, rinse it thoroughly, and clean the pot.

Step 2: Cooking the Cow’s Head

1. Return the head to the pot: Place the cleaned cow’s head back into the cleaned stockpot.

2. Add aromatics and vegetables: Add the halved onions, chopped carrots, celery stalks, leek, garlic cloves, and bouquet garni to the pot. These ingredients will infuse the meat with flavor.

3. Fill with water: Pour enough water into the pot to cover the head and vegetables. This liquid will serve as the cooking broth.

4. Season: Season the mixture with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

5. Simmer: Bring the pot to a gentle simmer. Do not let it boil vigorously. Simmer for about 2.5 to 3 hours, or until the meat is tender and easily comes off the bones.

6. Skim any impurities: Periodically skim any impurities or foam that rise to the surface during the simmering process.

Step 3: Preparing the Sauce Gribiche

While the cow’s head is simmering, you can prepare the traditional French sauce gribiche to accompany the dish.

1. Hard-boil the eggs: Place the eggs in a saucepan, cover them with cold water, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for about 9-10 minutes. Then, immediately transfer the eggs to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Once cooled, peel and chop the eggs.

2. Create the base: In a bowl, combine the Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar. Whisk them together until well incorporated.

3. Emulsify with olive oil: Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while continuing to whisk, creating an emulsion. The mixture should thicken and become smooth.

4. Add chopped ingredients: Stir in the chopped hard-boiled eggs, capers, cornichons, minced shallot, and chopped fresh parsley.

5. Season: Season the sauce gribiche with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Refrigerate: Cover the sauce gribiche and place it in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to meld.

Step 4: Finalizing the Dish

1. Remove the cow’s head: Once the cow’s head is tender, carefully remove it from the pot, allowing any excess liquid to drain.

2. Let it cool: Let the head cool for a short while, making it easier to handle.

3. Debone the head: This is the most challenging part. Carefully cut away the meat from the head, avoiding any bone fragments. The tender, flavorful meat can be used for serving. Ensure to remove the eyes and other undesirable parts.

4. Serve: Arrange the deboned meat on a platter. Serve it with sauce gribiche, mashed potatoes, and fresh crusty bread for a classic presentation.

Step 5: Enjoying Tête de Veau

Tête de Veau is traditionally served in generous portions, accompanied by sauce gribiche, which adds a burst of tangy, herbal flavor to the tender meat. This step-by-step guide to making Boiled Cow’s Head will remind you of French customs and traditions. Each bite is a celebration of French culinary heritage and the skill required to prepare this dish.


Guide to making Boiled Cow’s Head is not for the faint of heart, but it offers a unique and adventurous culinary experience that showcases the rich tapestry of French gastronomy. If you’re willing to take on the challenge and savor this classic dish, you’ll discover the delicate flavors and textures hidden within a cow’s head. Whether you’re preparing Tête de Veau for a special occasion or simply expanding your culinary horizons, this dish is a testament to the artistry and tradition of French cooking, making it a remarkable addition to your culinary repertoire.

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