I’ve heard it all when it comes to eating a muscle that pumps the body full of blood. And I too was once a member of the unfortunate group of souls that found eating this piece of meat an awful idea.
I must admit, the first few hearts I ate, tasted like cheap chicken livers found behind the dumpster of an abandoned KFC. However, if cooked and cared for properly, I, and most other hunters I know, claim this steak as their favorite of any big game animal protein.
The biggest rule of thumb when it comes to cooking heart is to make sure you don’t overcook it. Anything above medium (I, and most humans with souls, prefer medium rare), will begin to make the heart resemble the taste and texture of liver. BAD LIVER. Nothing against liver, however, I will tackle that gem on another day.
But for now, let’s talk about the first steps to insuring an ideal texture and flavor profile for your heart. Whether it’s deer, elk, antelope, moose… even turkey, it’s very important that proper care of the heart is taken at the time of the kill. I’ve heard that most “bros” eat the heart the night of the kill. Which is great, I’ve done this myself.
But if you are looking for the ideal heart recipe, it takes time.
Just like you would age the whole animal, it is very important that you let this muscle rest. It’s been pumping its ass off its whole life, after all. Allowing the heart to age will make this cut drastically more tender. I typically let mine age for a minimum of one week. Two weeks is even better. Anything after that and I have found no real improvement in flavor or tenderness.
After removing the pericardial sac from the heart, also known as the “ticker condom,” rinse the heart thoroughly under running water. Don’t be afraid to stick your fingers up inside to release any blood clots. The deer won’t care. He’s past the point of caring.
Then, wrap the heart in a small piece of cheese cloth or game bag and refrigerate. PRO TIP: To avoid pissing off your wife, place the heart on a plate so the blood doesn’t leak all over her fridge. Fresh deer blood and banana pudding doesn’t go well together.
Unlike many theories that airflow is your friend while dry aging meat, you really do not want air touching the heart. The air will form the crust that will in turn require trimming on an already very small and valued piece of meat. After aging, you want the heart to look very similar in color and texture as it was when you ripped it out of poor Bambi’s chest. (minus the blood).
The rest is up to you…
Here is how I prepare my arguably favorite heart dish:
Seared Venison Heart with Serrano Lime Chimichurri
– Salt and pepper
Slice the heart cross-grain in 1/2-inch slices, starting from the “pointy” side of the heart, to the valve end. Remove any ickies, inlcuding the little white stringy things on the inside of the heart, extra fat, blood clots, valves etc. You want clean, trimmed meat.
Salt and pepper liberally. Cover with plastic wrap. And let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes minimum, but 1 hour is ideal.
On a smoking hot cast iron skillet, add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to the pan and sear the heart steaks for about 90 seconds a side. Or until medium rare (130 degrees). Set steaks aside to rest.
1 bushel of fresh Italian parsley
2 large cloves of garlic
1 serrano pepper
Juice of a half of a lime
1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients into a food processor or grinding stone and blend/grind until all ingredients are reduced to a paste.
I like to serve this dish as is, or on a bed of sautéed leeks and mushrooms. Place the heart on a desired veggie or even toasted bread. Spread chimichurri on top of the steaks. And finish with a pinch of course salt and lime zest.
Seared Venison Heart with Serrano Lime Chimichurri? Sssstop…