Sunday, June 27, 2010

(Kinda) Historic Recipe: Beef Heart Kabobs

If you've never purchased a beef heart in the grocery store, I highly recommend you give it a try.

I've been scoping out the beef hearts in our grocery store for a few months, ever since I promised TMOTH after he suffered through the liver incident. Not wanting to renege on my promise, I decided that this was the week we'd eat beef heart.

When I did next week's grocery shopping on Thursday night I was quite surprised to find that they were out of beef heart. I had many questions: When does the next shipment come? Will it come in time? Who in this town is eating so much beef heart that the grocery store is actually out? And why?

Have no fear, when the girls and I headed to the grocery store yesterday they had at least a baker's dozen of beef hearts. In case you didn't know, this is what they look like at the store:
Oh, yea! Fresh, never frozen! (#obvioussarcasm)

Beef hearts are big. Most of the hearts at the store weighed in just under two pounds each, and at $1.19 a pound they're a bargain for lean beef. Of course, during WWII rationing beef hearts were also a bargain when it came to point values; organ meats were quite low on the point value list.
They are also a fun (and cheap!) way to test the personalities of your local grocery store personnel. When the teenage girl running the register picked up the heart to scan it, her hands hesitated over the scanner for just a moment while she registered exactly what it was she was holding. A true professional, she never lost her composure and slid it down the track for the bagger.

The teenage boy who was our bagger did an honest to goodness double-take when he picked up the heart. And then he froze. I'm not sure if he was contemplating what we were going to do with it or if he was having flashbacks to fifth grade dissection lab, but for one brief moment he was lost. He looked quite relieved when we picked up the bag and left.

At home it was time to prepare the beef. After reading through several beef heart recipes it was clear that beef heart is apparently best if marinated overnight in a marinade with a relatively high vinegar content.

I threw together the following marinade:

3/4 cup homemade zesty Italian vinaigrette salad dressing
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 tsp cumin
10 drops liquid smoke
salt & pepper (not to be confused with Salt-n-Pepa)

Next up was to cut the heart into kabob-sized chunks. First, I had to remove the heart from the package.

Not so pretty, huh? Hmm...what can I say about cutting up beef heart? It has a slightly gamey smell and texture. If I didn't have experience processing deer meat the smell and tough texture combination might have been difficult to handle. Visible fat, pericardial tissue and anything that looked valve-ish was removed to the waste basket (not much at all, really).

Once combined, the beef and marinade mingled together in the fridge for just under 24 hours.

In the meantime, I learned that in Peru beef heart kabobs (known as anticuchos) are a party favorite.

Tonight I skewered the heart chunks along with some veggies to make a traditional kabob. At this point, the heart looked, felt and smelled just like regular chunks of traditional beef steak.

After grilling, and with basil-scented rice and steamed fresh snow peas, this is how they looked:
So how did they taste?

Eowyn was the first to dive in, grabbing a heart chunk in her hands (why, oh why, doesn't that girl find using a fork a natural thing to do?) and taking a big bite. She chewed, she swallowed.

And then she exclaimed, "It's delicious!"

TMOTH and I both thought the heart tasted just like regular beef steak, albeit a tad bit firmer than what we are used to. Victory was at hand! This was not going to be a repeat of the liver incident!

Sissy, suspicious of any new food in the house, took the tiniest nibble in the world and then stated that she didn't like it. And then she admitted that it "wasn't really that bad," but that she didn't want to eat it. TMOTH and I both believe that had she never known it was heart she would have happily gobbled down her share (Sissy's love for meat and is a strong and pure thing).

I asked her, "If that meat was wrapped in a tortilla with cheese and lettuce like a taco, would you eat it?" Sissy squinted her eyes at me; she knows that I know that soft tacos are an absolute weakness for her. Cautiously, she replied, "Yes." And then she added, "But we don't have any tortillas."

"But we do!" I said, calling her bluff. I plan on making cheese and black bean enchiladas later in the week, so tortillas were on hand.

And you know what? Sissy did eat the heart meat in a tortilla with cheese and lettuce.

So I guess that the moral of this story is that beef heart is actually quite acceptable (if you partake of beef in your diet). And I wonder how many children and husbands ate beef heart during rationing and were none the wiser.

Oh, and Sissy did say at one point that she prefers the idea of eating tongue more than the idea of eating heart.

Be careful what you say, little one.

--Rational Mama


  1. The kabobs sound great! We have 1/2 a steer coming in late August and I'll put in a request for the heart.

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