I almost saved this one for Valentine’s Day… but I didn’t want to wait. Yes, I am now going to give you a recipe using beef heart. Beefalo heart, if I’m being specific, since that’s what I have to work with. When we bought our beefalo share last spring, I was curious enough about cooking offal to ask for some from the butcher. At $1 per pound, it was a deal I could not pass up, and a good opportunity to try something I might not otherwise have access to… or the willingness to seek out. In my portion of beautiful grass-fed, organic beefalo roasts, steaks and ground, I also got a tongue, liver and two hearts. Except… what I thought was liver was actually two MORE hearts. Oh boy.
I had absolutely zero idea how to work with beef heart; I don’t know that I had ever had or even seen it before. And I’ll be honest here: we got our meat share last spring, and there’s a reason I have had these hearts for months in the freezer. It took me a good amount of time to work up the courage to actually cook heart. I enjoy liver… as long as it’s chicken liver… and I usually leave the cooking to my husband or a restaurant. I prepared tongue once, in the one tongue dish I know and like (which is lengua tacos), and that took some nerve, too. I started thinking about why I was so determined to cook “the nasty bits”, a term I dislike but understand. Is it the stubborn (or boastful…) desire to say I have done so? Is it common sense because they were $1 per pound and are lean and nutritious? Is it due to my adventurous, try-all-the-ingredients palate? I think it’s a little of all those things, but also a desire to go all the way with my personal philosophy that we should only eat animals that have been treated fairly and humanely, as I know these beefaloes were, and we should honor those animals by not wasting any part of what they provide to us. Call me a hippie, or something else, I don’t care– I think waste is a shame. My hatred of waste is stronger than my squeamishness about preparing organ meat. So let’s figure out to do with those hearts, shall we?
My first instinct was stew. I like stew; it is versatile and comforting and easy to prepare. When it comes down to it, once I got past the name, heart is really not too much different than many cuts of beef I prepare for stew without a second thought. It is a muscle; the texture is familiar. It responds well to a long braise and works with traditional goulash flavors of onion, carrot and garlic the same way a chuck roast or equal amount of stew beef would. Ask your butcher to cut them for you and you might not even have to worry about trimming the hearts, which was the most challenging part for me. Once it was cubed, it looked like any other meat I have ever cooked with. My goulash, flavored with caraway, thyme, coriander and a healthy amount of Hungarian paprika, as well as sweet carrots and parsnips (my favorite part!), is a warm and satisfying winter meal. It was fantastic served with egg noodles and a dollop of sour cream and I bet it would be equally good with potatoes. I made it in the slow cooker while doing other things around the house; I just had to do a little bit of prep, wait five hours and then boil some egg noodles to get a delicious Sunday Supper on the table.
Beef(alo) heart is lean, flavorful and economical. For this meal, I paid about as much for the broth as I did for the meat! I’m guessing the price of the package of egg noodles was probably close to what I spent on heart, too. I will use beef or beefalo heart again for stews like goulash and, if I am ever lucky enough to find one fresh, would love to try it grilled. It is supposed to have a texture and flavor similar to hangar steak, which is one of my favorites. Check your local butcher shop or with a meat purveyor at your farmers’ market for buying options if you’d like to try cooking heart at home. You might be surprised how similar it is to roast beef, or steak– it certainly makes a heck of a goulash. Heart-y and delicious.
Heart-y Goulash (serves 6-10)
- 1 T. olive oil
- kosher salt & black pepper
- 2 beef (or beefalo) hearts, trimmed* and cut into 2″ chunks (about 3 lbs. total)
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped roughly
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1″ lengths
- 1-2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1″ lengths
- 2 T. Hungarian paprika
- 1 T. caraway seeds
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
- 3 c. beef broth
- several boughs of fresh thyme– I used about 8 small
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 c. tomato puree, or crushed tomatoes
- sour cream to garnish (optional)
- cooked egg noodles or boiled potatoes to serve
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet, Dutch oven or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Season the cubed meat generously with salt and pepper and add to the pan in a single layer; cook, without stirring, for about 5 mins. Turn the chunks and cook 5-7 mins. longer to brown at least one more side, then remove with a slotted spoon to a plate or bowl. Repeat this process, adding more oil to the pan if necessary, until all of the heart is browned. This step adds so much flavor; I do not recommend skipping it.
Add the onion, garlic, carrots, parsnips and browned meat to your slow cooker. (Mine is a 6 qt. model.) Sprinkle the paprika, caraway, marjoram and coriander over the top and mix to combine. Add the broth, fresh thyme and bay leaf. Cover and cook on HIGH for 5 hours. Add the tomato puree, stir, and cook for another 30 mins. to an hour.
Taste for seasoning, adding salt as needed. Remove the bay leaf and woody stems from the thyme. You can serve immediately: ladle a portion of meat and vegetables over cooked egg noodles or potatoes, top with some broth and a dollop of sour cream. Alternately, dish the heart and vegetables into a bowl and serve family style, with sour cream and noodles or potatoes alongside, as desired. The broth can be served right from the slow cooker, or ladled into a shallow skillet, brought to a boil and thickened with 1 T. cornstarch dissolved in 2 T. cold water to make a gravy. Both options are flavorful and delicious! Leftover goulash is wonderful reheated the next day and will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
*The beefalo hearts I have from the butcher came pre-trimmed, with just a thin layer of fat. Because the cut is already so lean, I left most of the fat alone and made sure to brown the chunks fat side down to render as much as possible. As for trimming, I cut out some of the very obvious tendons, but did not do much else, since I was already cutting it down for stew. There are plenty of guides online if you need help butchering; I found this link especially useful.