It’s almost Valentine’s Day and cutting out your own heart is not feasible, which is why beef heart on toast is a notably phenomenal substitute.
I deeply enjoy cooking the things I love most for my friends, which in part is why I have no friends. Be that as it may, I would not sacrifice this recipe for the friendship of Jane Goodall — at least not permanently. I could live without beef heart on toast for a few weeks.
After working for a 12-acre organic vegetable, poultry and pig farm in central Vermont for several seasons, one of the things I came to love the best was the flavors and textures I could not find in a grocery store — fresh off the farm chicken gizzards and fried chicken necks, slow-stewed pork and beef knuckles, but my favorite was the humble beef heart.
Beef heart is fairly rare to find because cows have one heart apiece, which means that for every animal there may be multiple sirloins, roasts and pounds of hamburger, but there is — and can only be — one heart.
Due to the lack of demand, it’s also generally cheap, and you don’t want to see my student loan debts.
Heart is absolutely delicious and horrifying to look at if you don’t have a penchant for horror movies, and preparing it is something of a mystery. There’s rich, lardy cholesterol across the top and spiderwebby tendons through the chambers, and if you don’t know how to trim it the textures are...interesting.
But this is why I have no friends and one food column.
Where to begin?
Tonight: Pan-fried beef heart with a black cherry and red wine demi-glace, caramelized shallot and garlic-infused Amish roll butter and served warm, sliced thin (like a pastrami sandwich) open-face style on good sourdough with a side of truffle mustard.
This particular cut came from Blackmore Farms in Georgia. My first idea is always to begin the sauces, because overcooking meat is more nightmarish to me than home-buying, and that’s especially lately since the market pulled an Area 51.
Roughly chop three or four large cloves of garlic into a pan with 3 tablespoons of butter and add a generous pinch of good salt. I like the Himalayan pink stuff. Pink is nice.
Take around one cup of black cherries, put on some reruns and half, pit and stem them all. Afterwards, chop and toss a pan with a large chopped shallot and two tablespoons of butter. Caramelize at a low to medium heat until they smell rich enough to host a charity auction or at least attend one. Let them take their time.
Later we’ll deglaze the pan with an oaked, deep red wine that doesn’t run you more than $15. I like the Australian 19 Crimes line, and in this recipe I use “The Banished,” a dark, rich red blend perfect for pairing with cherries.
Don’t cheat on the sauce with maraschinos — it ruins the entire dish worse than I ruin family holidays.
Flavors to feature
Heart is high in iron and very lean, so cooking it perfectly means a balance of personal preference and attention. It has a rich, beefy flavor and tender, steak-like texture, and that’s why I prefer to serve it on toast with something extra rich and decadent, just like the lies you fed your mother when sneaking out in high school.
The heart is capped with cholesterol, and you’ll want to use a paring knife to shave it off to the point where it looks less like a tooth and more like a rounded rump roast.
If it is not halved already, slice it open and you will see different ventricles and veins interlaced in the heart. Be not afraid, these can be sliced out with the same paring knife — be careful not to take too much flesh.
You can also leave these parts in. They will whither and become completely meaningless as you cook it.
Once trimmed, sear in butter to one’s liking — bear in mind, because of the low fat content, it doesn’t take much time to be fully cooked. Once cooked and rested, slice thin, serve on toasted bread, and drizzle with your sauce, which should be the consistency of slightly diluted Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Top with garlic butter, add your mustard to taste, and serve with wine.
Where to find it?
Deep in the mountains of the wild Georgian wilderness, there is a man. He has a beard as red as the western sun and eyes as blue as my favorite washcloth. His name? Andy: the name of kings, of diplomats, and of farmers, governors of their kingdoms in their own right.
Andy is not just a legend — he is a purveyor of some of the most flavorful pasture-raised meats in all of northern Vermont, and even the Canadians are jealous of him — I should know, I know a Canadian.
But Andy is not just one man. Andy is all of us, a man carrying on his family craft after generations of blood, sweat, grit and disdain for both flat-landers and craft beer.
You can find your own Andy by going into the fields, but to find the elusive Andy you must bring cash and have green plates. Only then will he let you into his golden shed and show you exactly what Indiana Jones sought and never found: the perfect cuts of beef.