Now you might think I’m crazy, but I love eating hearts. From chicken to beef, heart meat is an integral part of many regional cuisines, and an oft-neglected protein on our own shores. That can probably be attributed to our tendency towards squeamishness. It seems that many people like meat, as long as they don’t know what it is and can’t tell from looking at it! Perhaps the texture is also responsible for some of this tendency, though it shouldn’t surprise that the most used muscle in the body can be, well, a little muscular.
So, what is it about heart meat that’s appealing, and how to use it?
Chicken heartsNow chicken hearts get a bad rap just by being chicken hearts. There’s something vaguely derogatory about the name chicken hearts but what can you do about it? In actuality not too much: just grill those little suckers and enjoy them.
Chicken hearts are relatively tender for such a well worked muscle, though like all meats they can toughen with over cooking. In general, chicken hearts tend to be simply prepared and enjoyed for their rich chicken flavor, accented with a bit of iron and the faint musky undertone endemic to organ meats. Wood-grilling really adds nice flavors of char and smoke that work well to complement the heart’s flavor.
It can’t be surprising to learn that chicken hearts are enjoyed around the world. In cultures as diverse as those found in the Philippines to the Middle East, Brazil, and Sweden, chicken hearts have been consumed, as much out of necessity as flavor. What may be surprising to some is that more than 50 years ago none other than one of the original Top Chefs, James Beard, was advising people on how to prepare Grilled Chicken Hearts.
His recipe is a classic and well worth following as one’s first foray into the world of chicken hearts. While chicken hearts can be fatty, though can be easily trimmed of most of the fat, they are good sources of protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. They’re also not low in cholesterol, so enjoy them in moderation!
Click for a 1956 James Beard recipe for Grilled Chicken Hearts
Go to page 2 for Beef Hearts and A Simple Recipe for Veal Hearts