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This recipe is my ode to February, the month of Heart Health and Valentine’s Day.
While living in San Francisco, my Valentine’s Day tradition consisted of pillow fight flash mobs, beer, and action movies. There was nothing romantic about it.. and I liked it. Then I moved to Austin which meant no more beating up strangers with sacks of feathers. So, I tapped into my romantic side and prepared my boyfriend a home cooked meal of grilled beef heart wrapped in boar prosciutto. Did I mention he’s an ex-vegetarian? The tradition stuck. As did the action movies (I’ve already purchased our tickets to see Die Hard 5). This year’s version, however, ditches the pork for a bright, full flavored salad.
Why eat beef heart? It’s a wonderful organ, particularly for those less keen on eating the odd cuts. The flavor is intensely beefy with minimal fat, making it more approachable than kidney or liver. It also boasts a higher protein content than other cuts of meat, as well as thiamin, folate, selenium, phosphorous, zinc, and several B vitamins. Oh, and it’s ridiculously affordable. The trick is finding a source you trust. While the animal is living, organs have a lot of work to do. As a result, I never trust offal from a grocery store, just like I never trust sushi from a gas station. Grass-fed beef heart that’s free of antibiotics and other drugs is a much safer bet. This particular heart came from SonRise Ranch in San Diego and it was delicious.
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
6 oz. blueberries
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 beef heart, 1.5 to 2 lbs.
10 oz. Lindeman’s or Timmermans Kriek
2 blood oranges, juiced
1 to 2 tsp. horseradish, freshly grated
2 tbs. butter
2 tbs. fresh tarragon, chopped
salt & pepper
Prepare the onions
Caramelize the onions. This process takes awhile, so it’s best to start here. Begin by melting 2 tbs. unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium low heat. Add onions and season with a pinch of salt. Stir regularly the first 10 minutes or so. After that, you’re home free. Almost. There’s still another 30 to 40 minutes of cooking time left, but it only requires an occasional stir or two.
After about 30 minutes, add 4 oz. kriek and scrape up any of the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook an additional 5 minutes or so until the liquid is no more.
To make the vinaigrette base, pour 10 oz. kriek in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the juice of 2 blood oranges. Cook until reduced by about half; set aside to cool while prepping the heart. Don’t forget about the onions, though!
The best way to tackle the heart is with a very sharp, small knife.
Remove hard fat, silver skin, valves, tendineae, and anything else that looks inedible. There’ll be a lot to trim away, but the process is surprisingly simple. You should be left with a large, clean, intensely maroon colored muscle that resembles an uncooked tenderloin steak. Nervous? Ruhlman has a great video that’s helpful for first time heart butchers.
Slice the cleaned heart into strips. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbs. vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat. Lie the strips of heart in the pan without overcrowding.
Brown on each side and cook until medium rare. The heart is a very lean muscle, so err on the side of rare rather than medium. Overcooking can cause the meat to become chewy. They cook quickly – about a minute or two per side. Remove to a plate and allow to rest a minimum of 5 minutes.
To prepare the dressing, whisk the reduced kriek and orange juice with one part oil and one part vinegar. Add horseradish, tarragon, salt and pepper. Taste! And then adjust seasonings as needed.
Toss arugula with vinaigrette and serve with blueberries, almonds, seared heart, and caramelized onions.
Grate additional horseradish over the top, if desired, and serve with a Belgian Quad or Barleywine.