Nearly a month ago, I had a random thought regarding Valentine’s Day dinner. For as long as I can remember, we have stayed home on actual Valentine’s Day, instead choosing to celebrate on a random day. This year was no different, we had a great meal at Avec in Chicago, but instead of treating the 14th like any other day, I’d try something a little outrageous – I would cook heart for Valentine’s Day.

While picking up said heart from the friendly neighborhood butcher, he mentioned that if he was cooking it, he would confit it first and then warm it on the grill. After digging a little deeper, he suggested not beef tallow since it may drive beef flavors to the extreme, but olive oil or bacon fat. The choice was pretty easy.

Lately, I have been using the cryovac and water bath a lot to do slow confit projects, so from here, the part was familiar. First, the heart and fat go in the bag and then I added herbs and seasoning. Then the air gets vacuumed from the bag and the bag submerged in a water bath in a dutch oven that is placed in a 190 degree oven for 12 hours.

After 12 hours, I chilled the entire bag until dinner time, when I poured the contents of the bag into a bowl and scraped the fat from the heart. The heart was heated inches over coals and then left to rest for 15 minutes.

Finally when sliced, I saw that, while the meat was cooked for a dozen hours plus time on the grill, it was still bright pink. The texture was extraordinarily tender and if you didn’t know that it was heart, you may confuse it with a tenderloin. Honestly, it may have been the best combination of beefiness and tenderness that I have had.

The dinner was a rousing success. It started with salumi from Riviera, then we had roasted carrots and parsnips with honey and rosemary, then the beef heart, and then a big wheel of the some of Wisconsin’s finest. This Upland’s Rush Creek Reserve is a delicious soft cheese and most certainly the biggest rock star cheese of the winter. It was amazing and it is nearing the end of its availability. If you can find it, swallow hard, pay the money, and enjoy this amazing cheese. Following the cheese, we split a bar of Askinosie chocolate (also worth seeking out) and a heart shaped peanut butter cookie dipped in unsweetened cocoa and sprinkled in salt cream. Fun times.

With all of that food and only two of us (the girls were asleep), we had lots of leftovers. Day 2 of confit beef heart tuned into some kind of fancy taco night. Topped with only cilantro, red onion, a squeeze of lime, and a quick batch of roasted tomatillo-chipotle salsa, the tacos were a perfect vehicle for the tender, beefy heart. The salsa still has a special place in my heart as it was the first “gourmet” recipe that I made in the early 2000′s.

Beef Heart Confit

  • 1 trimmed beef heart
  • 3/4 cup bacon fat
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step one: Combine all ingredients in a vacuum bag.

Step two: Cook in a water bath in a dutch oven in your oven at 190 degrees for 12 hours. Chill when finished.

Step three: Remove heart from bag, scrape bacon fat from heart, and cook directly over hot coals for 2 minutes per side. Rest for 15 minutes and slice across the grain.

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