Friday, 13 January 2012

Versatile Heart

My resolution this year is to convince everyone to try odd bits. One of the most approachable and easiest to begin with is heart. This is a beef heart. Now if you are adventurous, you can buy a whole heart and prepare it yourself. It's not hard, all you need is time and a sharp knife.
 If not, you can  ask your butcher to clean it for you, just give him some advance notice. He will probably also sell you part of a cleaned heart, as a whole beef heart weighs around 1.8 to 2.25kg / 4 to 5lbs, and even after cleaning there is a lot of meat, but once it's cleaned you can freeze it. Heart is always comes slit, it is part of the inspection process at the abattoirs, so simply follow the cut and open it up. Give the heart a rinse under cold water and pat dry. Inside you can see the sinews holding the chambers together and the silverskin.

Remove these with a sharp knife, leaving solid pieces of meat. You can cut the heart into sections, this makes it easier to work with. Remove the fat from the outside of the heart and set aside to render, it is great for frying. If the membrane on the outside of the heart seems thick, remove it too.

Now you will have solid pieces of meat. There are two methods for cooking heart: slow or fast. I suggest you try the second method. (You can also eat it raw as heart tartare). Cut the trimmed meat into slices and cook them in you favourite stir-fry recipe, or make beef stroganoff. Yes, I know it's usually made with beef fillet, but heart has so much more flavour and it's cheaper.

Beef Stroganoff is a classic Russian dish from the eighteenth century, but wasn't named until the nineteenth century after the diplomat Count Paul Stroganoff. Legend has it that his chef made him the dish when he working in Siberia. My recipe is from the Russian volume in the Time Life Foods of the World series.

Mix a tablespoon of mustard powder with a teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt, then add enough water to make a thick paste.

Peel four good sized onions, cut them in half lengthwise, then slice thinly. Clean and slice 450g / 1lb of button mushrooms. In a large frying pan, heat some beef fat and when it is very hot add the onions and mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and cook stirring often until the onions soften. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a sieve to drain.

Slice about 750g / 1 2/3 lbs of cleaned heart into 6mm / 1/4in slices and season with salt and pepper. Wipe out the pan, the place over medium high heat adding some more beef fat and when its hot, cook the heart in batches, keeping it medium rare. Transfer the heart to a bowl. When all the heart is cooked, return it with the vegetable mixture back to the pan and place over low heat.

Stir in the mustard paste and about 500ml / 2cups of sour cream, a large spoonful at a time, until you have enough sauce. Heat through, but don't overcook, the heart must be at least pink, check the seasoning and serve.

You should have enough for six.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jennifer,

I agree 100% with this post...everyone should try this! It is so delicious!


Anonymous said...


I read a book review of "Odd Bits" in Edible Toronto magazine and was intrigued. I've read/heard a few sources lately that led me to aim to eat more meat, particularly organ meats. I've been mostly vegetarian ever since I left home almost a decade ago, so I hope to learn more about cooking meat from your blog (and possibly book).


Jennifer said...

Thanks Katya. Check some of the older blog posts and watch for new posts. I hope you do pick up the book I am sure you would find it interesting.

Amarantha said...

Sounds wonderful :) I shall make this eventually. In the meantime, I have a freezer full of beef to use up, so shall make some non-heart versions.

Jennifer said...

What cuts do you have Amarantha?There are lots of fabulous dishes you can make with tail, cheek, neck and shanks. And if you are in the northern hemisphere it is the perfect time for braising.

Amarantha said...

I am in Australia; it's been in the 30's (celsius) this week.

Sadly we couldn't get any of the more interesting bits of the cow (tail, cheek, neck, offal). There may be some shank left, but mostly we have muscle in its more common forms. We've eaten most of the mince and sausages; what's left is mainly steaks and roasts. Hence the plan to make stewing-type dishes such as Stroganoff. Maybe on the cooler days, though.

Tess said...

Wonderful! I never thought to make heart this way. In the past I've boiled it both for myself and cut up as a cat treat:) I mixed mine in a spicy salsa concoction and made tacos with it. Can't wait to try it this way though.

Jennifer said...

Hello Tess, Heart would make a great taco, just like tongue. Do try heart stir-fried or even raw if you like tartare. It's too good for your cat!

Anonymous said...

But where to get the odd bits (in London)? Asked the butcher for chicken hearts today and he felt offended. Any advice?

Jennifer said...

Is that London UK or London Ontario? I think a good butcher should be able to get you any odd bit you want including chicken hearts, provided you give him enough notice.

Franci said...

Hi Jennifer,

In the last couple months I must have cooked veal's heart at least 4-5 times. I tried Nose to tail version, Micheal Rulhman, but your anticuchos is our favourite.

Sorry, it's in Italian. And I dedicated a post just for your "Odd bits". You did a great job and deserve good reviews!
We are an Italian/Chinese couple, with american nationality, living in the south of France. We grew up with Odd bits, but neverthless so many tips and interesting recipes in your book. Italians have a phobia for the last couple years also thanks to your book, my fridge is full of all kind of fats, from tallow to foie gras fat.

For Anonymous in London UK:
go to borough market. Also ask on Egullet on the UK subforum. And River Cottage meat gives many tips on where to find good butchers.

Petra Hammerstein said...

Hi Jennifer,
thank you for the inspiration.
This was my heart-tartar, 3 weeks ago.
Next I'm doing th Stroganoff....
Greetings from Munich

Jennifer said...

Hi Petra,
Glad you are experimenting with heart. I have some German speaking friends who will translate your posts for me.

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