The Heart of the Matter

As we work our way through the last few packages of the 1/4 cow we purchased in June, we are down to two steaks, a roast, and “the nasty bits.” This has forced us to step outside our comfort zone as eaters, as well as challenged some of our inculturated aversion to certain parts and textures/flavors.

Last night, beef heart was on the menu.

My beef heart came neatly packaged and pre-cleaned in two 6-7 ounce pieces, rather than the hulking anatomical mass of the whole heart. (I did only get a quarter of the cow, and hence a quarter of the heart, as well). It is a lean, lean muscle, and a little firmer than your normal steak. Based on some research, people suggested either a long, slow braise, or a quick sear to cook the outside and keep it medium-rare/medium inside. I opted for grilling the hearts.

I threw together an Asian-inspired marinade of olive oil, garlic, red onion, hot chile peppers, ginger, salt, and pepper, tossed the heart pieces in this mixture and left them overnight in the refrigerator. The day of serving, I grilled them for 4 minutes and 30 seconds on each side. While the heart pieces were resting, I wilted a bed of “Asian greens” from Horse & Buggy Produce and tossed them with a spicy soy ginger dressing. I chopped the heart into bite size pieces and plated it on top of the greens with a little more dressing.

Beef Heart

And then came a decision…do you tell your loved one that you are about to feed them beef heart?

Up to that point, I had been referring to the heart as “steaks.” As in, “Michael, please go flip the steaks on the grill.” I knew, full well, that his awareness of what he was about to eat might completely change his response to the food; I had been nervous about eating beef heart all day! But, I also felt that it might feel like some sort of malicious trickery to feed him the salad and then slyly ask “So….what did you think?”

In the end, I told. One look at the cloud of disgust that passed over his face told me it was the wrong decision, although he quasi-gamely tried a bite, making revolted faces the entire time. (He ended up eating the salad. And the leftovers.)

As for the heart itself? It was chewier and simultaneously spongier than regular steak, with a more pronounced beefy flavor and a slightly mineral taste. Although I’m a bloody steak aficionado, the rarer parts of the heart were too texturally unusual for me to fully enjoy them, and I much preferred the slightly chewier and more done bites.

It’s not my new favorite cut of beef, but I’m not sure how much of that is that it is the texture/flavor or that it is an organ, one that I don’t typically think of as “food.” Throughout eating, a quiet, constant voice in my head chanted “you’re eating a heart, you’re eating a heart.” 

Next time, I might try grinding it and mixing it with ground beef to make meatloaf or burgers. When it comes to matters of the (beef) heart, sometimes ignorance is bliss.

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