Heart is an excellent muscle to eat: it's lean and flavorful (meaty but not organy—it's a hard working muscle, not squishy spleen), it's got a good bite, and it's inexpensive (I bought the three-pound grass-fed beef heart for six bucks last Saturday). And one more thing: it puts to use a cut that is often thrown away; it's important that we do our best to make use of all parts of the animals we kill for our food.
I use a beef heart here, but you can use a veal heart which is a little more tender and mild. I first had beef heart a couple summers ago when Pardus visited. He stuck it on skewers, a good strategy because you invariably end up with different sized chunks after trimming. Last year, during Pardus's visit, we ate at Lola, where then chef Derek Clayton did an appetizer pairing veal heart with fingerlings, a celery root puree, mushrooms and a salsa verde (he tried grinding heart scraps for family meal meatloaf; he recalls a very unhappy family that day). You could do a beef heart tartare (here's a general tartare post or see the link below for Chris Cosentino's beef heart tartare puttenesca), a beef heart stir-fry, add it to meat you're grinding for burgers, cure it like corned beef, cover it with coriander and pepper and smoke it for beef heart pastrami. You name it.
To prepare the beef heart for cooking, cut away all the fat, any obviously squishy tissue, connective tissue, valves, papillary muscles and tendineae attached to the valve flaps; it should be obvious by sight what's good to eat and what's not. You want clean dense muscle only; you'll have a lot of trim—don't make yourself too crazy trying to get every last bit. Here's a short video of how to prepare and grill beef heart. (Thank you for the video work, James; one day maybe you'll have actual talent to work with.)
In her splendid new book coming, Odd Bits: How To Cook the Rest of the Animal, Jennifer McLagan notes that you can also braise the heart (the book's out next month, highly recommend it). If you do, she rightly recommends leaving the exterior fat on. I don't think I'll ever braise the heart, though. It would turn the distinctive bite and flavor into run of the mill brisket-like beef. Stick to preparations that will feature it's unique texture and flavor.
Grilled Beef Heart with Herbed Vinaigrette
- 1 beef heart, trimmed and cut into slices or chunks
- salt as needed
- ½ large shallot, roughly chopped (save the other half for the vinaigrette)
- pepper to taste
- olive oil as needed
- arugula as needed (a handful per serving)
For the vinaigrette:
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ½ large shallot, minced
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 chopped tablespoon each: oregano, parsley, chives
- Liberally salt the beef, add the shallot and oil, toss and refrigerate till youre ready to cook it (an hour is optimal, but for as long as 24 hours).
- For the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, shallot and salt and allow to sit for 5 or 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining herbs.
- Grill the beef over hot direct coals. Depending on your grill and how you've cut your meat, you may want to grill the pieces in a basket or put them onto water-soaked skewers. Grill to medium rare, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
- Arrange arugula on plates, top each with beef heart, and spoon the vinaigrette over the meat.
If you liked this post on grilled beef heart, check out these other links:
- My post liver crudo and Broken Arrow Ranch.
- Chef Chris Cosentino's blog Offal Good shares information about cooking offal, kitchen life, and much more. Here's his beef heart tartare.
- Daniel Okrent of Food & Wine Magazine writes about an organ meat eater's club in his article Offal Truth.
- Yakitori Hatsu or grilled chicken hearts, the recipes is provided by Raymund of Anh Sarap.
© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.