by Holly Fann
While these days it seems like those who eat offal are adventurous gourmands, this wasn't always the case. Organ meats are humble by nature, the odd science-project leftovers after the animal has been broken down into the more obviously appealing roasts and steaks. With clever cooking techniques, though, these cheap "nasty bits" can become tasty, even highfalutin' dishes. In No Guts, No Glory, Gut Check visits local places serving up the offal truth.
This Valentine's Day Gut Check gets literal when we tell you to eat your heart out. We're taking a trip to our own kitchen to prepare beef heart, which is not only surprisingly simple to prepare, but also one of the most approachable organ meats to be enjoyed. Not squishy, not slimy, not lumpy or bumpy, it's tender and firm and meaty and, when made in the following style, a remarkably tasty slice of animal.
The six-pound beef heart we picked up came from the Missouri Grass Fed Beef folks, who sell during the summer and early autumn at Tower Grove Farmers' Market. Frozen solid and shrink-wrapped, it looks, frankly, like a big baseball mitt made o' meat.
Keeping the heart frozen while you trim it makes the job easier.Cut off the small amount of fat on the exterior of the heart and cut it straight down the center into two lobes. Inside you'll find a couple squishy ventricles and other unsavory bits. Cut those out and slice up what looks quite a bit like frozen flank steak into 1/4 inch strips.
Organ meats generally work well cooked long, low and slow or quickly over high heat. The heart is a particularly good candidate for the later. We decided to make our meaty love heart with a nod to Spain by marinating it in a mix of red wine and cola along with a couple shallots, a jalapeño and some peppercorns and garlic.
The beef relaxed in its bath for about two hours before we quickly grilled it in a smoking hot grill pan for about 30 seconds on each side. Served on grilled country-style bread with a small handful of cilantro, the heart had a great tender chew, a tiny bit of spicy bite and a delicate balancing act of the robust red wine and cola vs. the mineral undertone of that big pumping artery.