Have A Heart: How This Organ Meat Is Eaten Around The World

Americans are frequently credited with having a lot of heart, but when it comes to eating them, we’re not so hip on the idea. Even though offal, or “nose-to-tail” eating has been on-trend for some years now, a lot of people still flinch at the idea of dining on animal heart.

The reality is, heart is a delicious, healthy, versatile meat, devoid of the strong flavor possessed by most (improperly prepared) organ meats. My chef friend Ryan Hardy says, “The heart is a muscle, just like loin or shoulder.” A former farmer who makes his own charcuterie, Ryan’s made a name for himself with dishes like veal heart scallopine, and other rustic, meaty treats.

The rest of the world uses the hearts of all sorts of critters, from frog to horse, in a variety of ways. In honor of our own heart-centric holiday (that’s Valentine’s, y’all), I’ve provided a list of the most well known dishes, along with some modern interpretations of classic recipes, by some of the nation’s most acclaimed chefs.

One of the tastiest/least frightening of heart dishes are these skewered and grilled chunks of beef heart from Peru. Although anticuchos can be made with the hearts of other species, corazon de vaca is the most popular, and sold by street food vendors across the country, and in other parts of South America.

Cobra heart
We’ve all seen it on the Travel Channel, whether it’s “No Reservations,” “Bizarre Foods,” or some other show. Or perhaps you’ve experienced it for yourself: the old, snake-heart-in-a-shot-of-firewater, or swallowing the still-beating-cobra or frog heart. It’s what men in parts of Asia use in place of Viagra, and frankly, I’d take impotence, any day. For anyone who’s ever stared into a bottle of rice whisky, cloudy with flecks of tissue, and observed a bobbing gray blob of reptile or amphibian heart, you know what I’m talking about.
The beloved national dish of Scotland consists of a sheep’s stomach stuffed with a highly-seasoned mixture of the animal’s lungs, heart and liver, mixed with oatmeal. If that doesn’t tempt you, perhaps the cooking technique will. Boiling is nothing if not sexy.

Originally, this term referred to a stew of game birds, and dates back to the 16th century. Today, it refers to the edible organs – usually heart, liver, and gizzard – of poultry, which are used for making gravy. Tip: Caramelize these suckers before attempting to make stock and/or ragù from them; it makes all the difference in depth of flavor in the final dish. Serve atop fresh pappardelle pasta, and you have a dish that says, “I love you.”

Coer de Veau Farci
This classic French dish from centuries past consists of veal heart stuffed with forcemeat (often mushrooms) and wrapped in caul fat, before being cooked in the oven. It’s served with a reduction of the pan juices and white wine enriched with butter. According to “Larousse Gastronomique,” the French bible on all things culinary, “Pig or sheep hearts are used to make a ragout or a civet [a game stew thickened with blood].”

In the contemporary world, heart is growing more mainstream thanks to the work of chefs and food personalities. For example, last June, I attended a cooking demo by Andrew Zimmern at the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen. The theme was “Game On!” and Zimmern prepared a handful of dishes utilizing oft-unloved animal parts. He converted the dubious, especially with his grilled venison hearts with arugula, sauce Gribiche and shallot rings

Another acquaintance of mine, Jonathon Sawyer, chef/owner of Cleveland’s acclaimed The Greenhouse Tavern, is serving up confit beef heart paprikash (with bacon, onion, smoked paprika, steamed potatoes and spaetzel) as part of this year’s Valentine’s Day Menu. I asked Jonathon what had inspired this untraditional take on paprikash, which usually calls for chicken meat (heart-free).

He told me, “It was partly inspired by my travels in Europe. When cooking things like offal at the restaurant, we like to use familiar flavors that encourage our guests to give it a try. To me, nothing is more comforting than a big bowl of Hungarian paprikash just like Grandma Szegedi used to make.”

That, my friends, is love.

[Photo credits: heart, Flickr user Baie.; haggis, Flickr user CasadeQueso]

Farmer Creates Heart-Shaped Meadow To Honor Late Wife

British farmer Winston Howes lost his wife Janet 17 years ago, but the lasting tribute that he created in her honor is only now coming to light. Last week, a hot air balloonist happened to be drifting over the Howes farm when he snapped the photo seen here. That image revealed a heart-shaped meadow that Winston has lovingly crafted over the years as a reminder of the love of his life.

The 70-year-old Howes says he came up with the idea of the meadow not long after Janet’s death. He tells the U.K.’s Daily Mail that it was a “flash of inspiration” and he soon went to work planting small oak trees – thousands of them. Over time, those saplings grew into tall, strong trees, creating a tranquil refuge in the process.

The living tribute to his wife spreads out across six acres of farmland and is bordered on all sides by a tall hedge. From the road, it appears to be little more than a large copse of trees, but when viewed from overhead, its secret is revealed. The heart is distinct and cleverly formed from all of those carefully planted trees. Access to the interior of the grove can only be gained by following a narrow trail that leads to the tip of the heart. That same tip points directly toward Wotton Hill – Janet’s hometown.

Winston says that he likes to go and sit in the meadow from time-to-time and just think about things. I’m sure it has been a source of quiet comfort to him over the years but now that the word is out, he may just see a few more balloons in the sky overhead.

[Photo credit: Adam Gray/SWNS.com]

SkyMall Monday: Sonic Boom Sweetheart Clock

Boxes of chocolates. Pillows. Even pepperoni pizzas. On Valentine’s Day, you’ll see anything and everything shaped like a heart. However, you can’t start your cavalcade of hearts on Valentine’s Day until you wake up. For many people, though, that’s the hardest part of their day. Here at SkyMall Monday headquarters, we don’t always attack the day. No matter how much you love the person next to you or the activities you have planned for this romantic holiday, the soft embrace of your bed can be even more enticing. So, how do you pry yourself out of bed and get started on the parade of hearts? Well, you let SkyMall wake you up. Or, more accurately, you let the Sonic Boom Sweetheart Clock – and its vibrating bed shaker – give you a heart attack.Most alarms play an annoying sound or the radio. The Sonic Boom Sweetheart Clock bombards your ears with a 113db tone. That’s louder than a motorcycle, power saw and a subway train. Surely, that would wake up even the sleepiest romantic. But, the Sonic Boom Sweetheart Clock ups the ante with a bed shaker. What’s a bed shaker? Just a small disc that you place underneath your pillow to vibrate you awake. It’s a perfectly natural way to start your day.

Think that a simple alarm clock will wake you up? Believe that a bed shaker is a misnomer when it’s only shaking your pillow? Well, while you plan your Valentine’s Day breakfast in bed, we’ll be reading the product description:

With a vibrating bed shaker and an adjustable volume audio alarm tone, this alarm will ensure that you wake up when you want to.

The Sonic Boom Sweetheart Alarm with Vibrating Bed Shaker has been designed especially for ladies; with its multi-colored display and heart shape. Waking up in the morning will never be the same.

Sonic Boom Sweetheart Alarm with Vibrating Bed Shaker features:

  • Comes with the newest most powerful 12-volt bed shaker
  • Complete with a hi/low dimmer switch to sleep better at night
  • Extra loud pulsating audio alarm with a loud 113db adjustable tone & volume control
  • Battery backup to maintain the proper time in the event of a power outage
  • One 9-volt battery is required for battery backup (not included)
  • A switch allows user to select 12/24-hour time

Finally, an eardrum-shattering, pillow-shaking alarm clock that has been designed solely with the needs of women in mind. It’s about time we disbanded the old boys’ club of loud, vibrating clocks. If you’re using the older, less powerful bed shakers, it’s time to upgrade.

Also, 9-volt batteries still exist? Isn’t that amazing?

So, start your Valentine’s Day with loud noises and a shaking bed. After all, it’s a day for showing off your love.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Photo of the Day (2/14/09)

I’ve dreaded every Valentine’s Day for the past five years, but I guess that’s because I’ve long been unattached on this day, and usually spend my time moping around the house and giving my pug Iris hugs every hour or so to make up for the love I’m not getting.

Also every Valentine’s Day I find time to rummage through all of the cheesy card in the neighborhood drugstore’s Hallmark aisle and gag at the ridiculously romantic lines within. Sometimes I even buy a card for myself — often one that says something like “Loving you is the easiest thing to do” or something completely self-indulgent like that.

Despite my disappointments come this Day of Love, I must say pick-up lines are some of my favorite things. This year, a friend sent along some of the craziest pick-up lines I’ve ever read. So, to you single people out there, wherever you are in the world, you might want to give these lines a try. Go ahead and sidle up to one of the pretty ladies / handsome men at a bar around the corner and have at it!

  • If you were a booger, I’d pick you first.
  • You’re like my dandruff, I cannot get you out of my head!
  • My love for you is like diarrhea, I can’t hold it in!
  • You remind me of a library book, because I always want to check you out.
  • Is your father a terrorist? Because you’re “da bomb!”
  • Excuse me, are you a dictionary? Because you give meaning to my life.

Kidding aside, this photo of red locks in a heart shape comes to us from Styggiti. Couples in South Korea climb Namsan, fasten a lock at the top of the mountain, and then throw away the key as a symbolic gesture of their love for each other. I know couples do this in some parts of China as well.

Happy Love Day, everyone.

If you have some great travel shots you’d like to share, be sure to upload them to the Gadling pool on Flickr. We might just pick one as our Photo of the Day!

Airplane noise raises blood pressure

How do you feel when you hear the noise of a a few airplane engines firing up or flying overhead? For me, the sound is exhilarating–no doubt a result of my life-long love of flying. But for the majority of people, the noise of an airplane induces stress and raises blood pressure. In fact, being constantly exposed to airplane noise can lead to chronic stress and do irreparable damage to the health of your heart, according to this article.

This doesn’t just apply to those who fly frequently, either. People who live near airports and/or consistently have planes buzzing overhead are at an even higher risk for the health problems that airplane noise can lead to.

Live near an airport? According to Dr. Mats Rosenlund of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm: “People who are ‘constantly annoyed’ by airplane noise might want to consider a neighborhood more conducive to their overall happiness.”