Thursday, January 23, 2014

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Beef Heart

     As some readers may have noticed, I'm rapidly running low on organs to write about.  I've already done brains, ears, tongue, gizzards, liver, stomach, intestines, feet, hocks, and kidneys, as well as dishes which contain a mix of exotic cuts/organs, like scrapple, haggis, head cheese, and potted meat.  Fortunately, my local supermarket (Shop Rite), came through for me again, with beef heart.  Technically I've probably already had heart, in haggis, or perhaps some hot dogs, sausages, potted meat, etc., but obviously in these examples the organ was combined with other organs or meat, so I wasn't able to fairly judge the seperate heart tissue itself.
     Heart consumption has a fairly rich tradition in folklore.  To start with, in general terms, the heart was often seen as being the location of an individual's courage and bravery, and so the thinking was if you ate a vanquished enemy's heart, you stole and absorbed theirs.  The Aztecs, among others, believed this.  Others credited the heart (and not the more logical brains) with containing wisdom.  So Pliny, for example, wrote that if a person ate a still beating mole's heart, they would gain the power of divination. Some Hebrew myths were amazingly contradictory--one held that eating hearts gave the consumer wisdom, while others claimed that doing so would cause one to forget things that they already knew.  In some versions of the Snow White story, the evil queen tells the huntsman to bring back Snow White's heart, both as proof that she's dead, and perhaps to gain her beauty by eating it.  (This, of course, backfires, as the huntsman doesn't want to murder an innocent girl, so he lets her go and gives the queen a boar's heart (or lungs and liver in some versions) instead.  So I guess the lesson here is that if you're an amoral, insanely jealous and vain royal woman, get off your ass and kill your potential rivals yourself, to make sure.)  Finally, there's the Danish myth about valravne (also valravn).  One version of this story was that ravens that ate the bodies of slain kings or cheiftains became embued with supernatural powers.  The one(s) that ate the heart made out even better, as they gained human knowledge, and the ability to lead people astray.  These valravne were usually evil, and were sometimes portrayed as being half wolf/half raven.  Which, I think, is a pretty cool monster.
    Anyway, back to the actual beef heart.  Alas, the meat I bought was not already prepared, so I had to actually cook once more (the first, and most likely the only time I'll do so in 2014).  One popular recipe I read was for stuffed beef heart with bread crumbs, like a mini Thanksgiving turkey, I guess.  However, the grocery butcher had already cut up the heart I bought, and quite frankly, that sounded too ambitious for my laughably primitive cooking abililies, as well.  Otherwise, the recipes seemed to be to bread the heart and fry it quickly, or slow cook it for hours.  I opted for the latter.
     First off, I cut the heart into small, bite sized pieces.  Depending on the butcher/store, you might have to remove fat and/or vessels yourself--those on mine were done previously.  Then I put these in a pot  with water and added salt, pepper, marjorum, peppercorns, and onion powder.  I brought this to a boil, and then turned the heat down to low, and simmered it for three hours, stirring occasionally.  Near the end I threw in some mushrooms.  The result was okay, but not dazzling.  The heart itself was a bit chewy, and rather bland.  Worchestershire sauce definitely improved the flavor.  It didn't taste  that organ-y.  On the plus side, and in marked contrast to several of my recent posts, it was incredibly cheap--I got the close to two pounds of heart for $1.02!  I probably won't make it again, given my disdain for cooking, but if I saw it on a restaurant menu, I might give it a try.  Also, unlike some other organs, I didn't hear any accounts of foul smells while cooking, and mine certainly didn't have a negative odor.  Oh, and almost forgot, I've had chicken and turkey hearts many times in giblet gravy, and I recall liking them.
     As for other effects, I haven't noticed any as of yet.  I don't feel any more courageous, or any wiser, or, contrastingly, any more forgetful or stupid.  And no new supernatural knowledge of future events, either, which is a shame, with the Super Bowl coming up soon.  (On that note, I'm very amused to see that this year, in addition to taking more traditional wagers on the game's point spread, the first player to score a touchdown, the MVP, etc., some sports books are also taking bets on the (outdoor, northern New Jersey) game's temperature (I recall the spread I saw was an over/under of 32 degrees F. at kickoff).
    One final note--cult rock/blues/psychedelia musician Captain Beefheart's real birth name was apparently Don Glen Vliet.

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