April 23, 2012

Lamb Heart with Peaches and Balsamic

I want to talk about our heritage in the kitchen. The food from the past that we have kept alive, lost, and then found. The food your great-grandmother cooked. A lot has changed since your great-grandmother cooked a meal at the beginning of the last century. She probably didn’t have a food processor, or a strawberry corer, or a fancy spatula with sparkles. She didn’t have blueberries in January or lettuce in July. She was probably using local ingredients because there wasn’t much else.

And she was probably using the whole animal. Using the whole animal, nose-to-tail eating, whatever name you want to give it, has been a long forgotten tradition until recently, because somewhere along the way it became gross and unsavory. This is a lost tradition in America, though it’s being revived as we speak. In other places and other times, however, offal has been just another piece of meat that you cook, because it’s good. Good to eat, good for you, good for the animal, and good for the earth. And it’s having its renaissance right now, somewhere in a kitchen near you.

I think we should all be a part of that renaissance.

Heart is gateway offal. I don’t really even think of it as offal because unlike its offal counterparts it is a muscle, just like all the other cuts of meat you’re used to eating. It’s just a muscle that did a different job in a different place.  And that’s what is so great about heart, it’s not an organ as much as it is a muscle. Its flavor is rich and round and full. It makes a burger seem decadent, a simple chili seem gourmet, and on its own it exudes a fine dining richness. It’s distinct, but not altogether unfamiliar. It’s still a muscle, still tender, still the same meat you know and love. I think you should get familiar with it.

Now, I know that heart is not commonly found in grocery stores. I buy my heart from the farmer’s market and local meat producers in my area. One of the great things about heart is that it’s cheap and it’s almost always all natural and grass fed. Do a little exploring in your area and I bet you can find yourself some heart.

And really, it’s not all that hard to prepare. Please, remember that these pictures aren’t meant to be unsavory. They’re here to help you find your way around heart. Because, it seems really foreign, but it’s actually very straightforward.

At the top of any heart, be it a cow’s, a lamb’s, or a buffalo’s are the heart’s fat and valves. Now, unlike the fat on many other cuts of meat, heart fat isn’t something you want. It won’t render well and it won’t add great flavor. I think the easiest way to clean a heart, is simply to cut off the top part that contains the fat and tough valves. It makes life a lot simpler. You’ll also want to trim any thick fat from the outside of the heart.

My favorite thing about heart is that you could clean it with your eyes closed, only by feel. You know how the smooth muscle of a chicken breast feels, or the grain of a nice steak. So you can easily feel with your fingers what parts you don’t want on the heart. After you’ve cut the top part of the heart off there will be two apparent chambers. Cut each one open so that you can lay the heart flat and trim out the heart strings and tough walls of the heart’s inner chambers. After that, depending on the animal, you’ll have about 1/4-1/2 inch heart steaks. These will grill up very quickly on a hot pan.

Eat! It’s a small bite, a great introduction. It’s there with familiar greens and sweet peaches. I know you’re going to like it.

 

Lamb Heart with Shaved Peach and Balsamic
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lamb heart
  • 1 peach
  • salt and pepper
  • paprika
  • balsamic vinegar
  • arugula or other green
Instructions
  1. Clean the lamb's heart by removing the top part that contains the fat and valves.
  2. Clean any excessive fat from outside the heart.
  3. Cut open the first chamber and lay it flat, cleaning the thick tissue and heart strings away from the heart. Do the same with the second chamber. Feel around the heart for any thick or hard tissue and cut that away, too.
  4. The heart should now just look nothing like a heart, but a smooth steak. Cut the heart into the desired number of pieces, probably 4.
  5. Salt, pepper, and paprika one side of each heart steak.
  6. Put olive oil in an already hot pan and put the heart steak in the pan salt and pepper side down.
  7. Salt and pepper the top side and flip after about 30 seconds to a minute depending on how thick the heart is and how well you would like it done. Repeat on the other side.
  8. Take a peach and use a mandoline or a knife to slice a peach thinly. Chop up arugula or another green to use as a bed for the steak.
  9. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the steak and greens and place the thinly sliced peach on top.
  10. Eat right away while the heart is still hot.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

francie April 24, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Hard to believe, but I now believe I could try heart – & know what I was eating – without much difficulty. You’ve explained & illustrated it perfectly.

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