Under Pressure: Calf’s Heart Confit, Toasted Pecans, Cherries, Baby Beets

If we are going to kill and eat animals, we really should try to utilize as much of the carcass as possible. Only eating the “good parts” is very wasteful and disrespectful to the critter that died so we can eat. I do believe that, but I have to admit that offal cuts can be challenging. Most of these alternative cuts need some work to make them tasty or to render them tender enough to chew. Some cuts I absolutely love, like the sweetbreads, pig tails and liver if done properly and with care. Other pieces I am not crazy about but I still would eat them (kidneys?) and to this day I still have never prepared tripe at home due to the smell, but I really enjoy it when my grandmother prepares it. Heart falls somewhere in that middle category, I do not like it that much.

That’s a bit odd since one would think that since heart is one big muscle it should be less challenging. However, to me it tastes too minerally and has a strong “organ” taste. I suppose since all it does is pump blood 24/7 that should not be that surprising. That strong taste is also why heart goes so well with sharp flavors like a garlic lemon sauce for chicken or lamb heart or a tart vinegar sauce for beef or pork.

When I saw my local meat vendor has calf heart I figured I’ll order one and try this Thomas Keller recipe. It’s a very good and substantial salad of sorts. The heart is thoroughly cleaned, brined and cooked sous vide after being packaged with a generous dose of duck fat. It is then sliced thinly and reheated in some of the rendered fat right before serving. Keller uses baby turnips in the salad. I rarely see those at the market, but small yellow beets are usually available. These get cooked sous vide as well and then glazed in a little butter and chicken stock. The cherries are pitted and get marinated/pickled in a spiced red wine. The last garnish is the glazed pecans. These are blanched in boiling water, dried and then sautéed in butter and seasoned with smoked salt. To serve, the plate gets a drizzle of balsamic vinegar first, and the meat is arranged on top along with the rest of the garnishes. A lightly dressed arugula salad finishes it off.

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