The Local Food Report: beef heart

Hi. Are you are squeamish, vegetarian, or otherwise wary of strange meats? If so, today is not your day. Today around here is for the gung-ho, the slightly crazy, and the old-fashioned. Today we are going to talk about heart. And eating it! 

Still there? Excellent. That up there is the heart either of a cow or a lamb. Our freezer labeling is a little suspect, and we buy a lot of whole animals from local farmers, so I can't say for sure. But I think based on size it was lamb heart, and I can tell you for sure that it is the heart of a grass-fed local animal, and it was delicious.

I learned how to cook it from a farmer in New York, Ron Kipps. He was at the Union Square Greenmarket when we visited last weekend, and he's been raising grass-fed beef and bison for fifty-seven years. His farm is in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, not far from Amish country, and he's eaten his share of hearts.

He says the best way to cook it is over low heat. You glug some olive oil in a pan, brown some garlic, then cook the heart in quarter-inch strips. It wants to be sliced thin, he says—it's a muscle, with a consistency that is firm and smooth. Some people compare the taste to liver, but he says it has a taste all its own. It's chock full of iron and all sorts of other nutrients, and it's incredibly lean.

After 7 or 8 minutes on low, Ron says the heart is ready to eat. He says the Amish take the recipe one step further—they use the fat in the pan to make a gravy, then serve it with the heart over noodles. 

I decided to take this tact. I added shiitake mushrooms—the dish seemed like it needed a little more texture to me—and a bit of grated Parm on top. I was wary, but you know what? It was good—firm, meaty, and delicious. I've also seen it braised and ground up and added to ground beef or ground lamb to add iron. We have two more hearts in our freezer. Who knows what we'll try next!


If heart is a new experience for you (it certainly was for me!), there's a good tutorial on trimming it over here. I wasn't sure if I would like it, but I really did. It has a very intense flavor—very meaty—and a very firm texture. We ate this dish alongside steamed bok choy—it needs a light accompaniment. 

1/2 pound egg noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more to drizzle the pasta
3 tablespoons pastured butter
4-5 small cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 lamb heart, about the size of a fist, fat and ventricles trimmed and meat cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups cold beef stock
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced (I used shiitakes)
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
grated Parmesan, for serving

Put on a pot of water to boil and cook the noodles. Drain them, reserving a half cup of the cooking water, and return them to the pot. Drizzle with olive oil, toss well, cover, and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large sauce pan over low heat. When the pan is warm add the garlic and sauté for a minute or so, until it starts to get fragrant. Add the heart slices and cook, flipping occasionally, for 7-8 minutes, or until they're just cooked through but still tender. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the heart slices to the pasta pot with the noodles. Cover it back up to keep everything warm.

There should still be a fair amount of butter and some garlic in your pan. Turn the heat up to medium high and add the flour, whisking constantly, until the mixture becomes a thick paste. Add the beef stock gradually, whisking after each addition. Slowly, the paste should start to thin into a more gravy-like substance. Add the mustard and Worcestershire sauce, season with salt and pepper, and taste. Adjust as needed. Simmer the gravy for several minutes longer, then pour it over the heart and pasta. Again, cover the pot back up.

Give your saucepan a quick rinse, then add the olive oil. Turn the heat back up to medium and add the mushrooms. They absorb oil pretty fast, so as you sauté, add glugs of the reserved pasta water as needed to cook them until they soften. 

Finally, add the mushrooms to the pasta, heart slices, and gravy. Mix well, adding more pasta water as needed to thin the sauce to the consistency you like. If the mixture's started to cool, bring it up to a simmer, then serve hot with grated Parmesan.

P.S. If you're interested in buying meat from local farms, here are a few of the places we get it:

Border Bay Junction Farm, Barnstable (lamb)
Cape Cod Organic Farm, Barnstable (pork)
Hillside Farms, Truro (poultry)
Mac's Seafood, Truro (pork, poultry, & beef via several Truro farmers and Northeast Family Farms)
Miss Scarlett's Blue Ribbon Farm, Yarmouth Port (pork & poultry)
Paskamansett Farms, Dartmouth (poultry, pork, & beef)
Pete & Jen's Backyard Birds, Concord (rabbit)

There are lots of other places to shop, depending on where exactly you live. SEMAP has a great online tool where you can enter your zipcode to find the farms closest to you. Check it out over here!


Couves said...

I love beef heart. It's inexpensive, nutritious and, as you say, it has great flavor (very beefy and not at all bitter like liver -- if anything, it's slightly sweet). Unlike other organ meats, beef heart has a texture closer to regular meat, although it's firmer and slightly rubbery. I cook steaks of it like filet mignon, seared on the outside and rare inside. The only problem with this method is that it can be hard to tell when it's done by feel, since it's already quite firm while raw. When eating the "steak," it is best sliced thin. Anyway, thanks for the new cooking technique and recipe... sounds great!

Paskamansett farms is just down the road from me. I knew they have raw milk and eggs but I didn't realise they sell meat as well. Do you know if the chicken and pigs are pasture-raised?

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