Sunday, October 23, 2011

I Heart Stew

Yesterday my mom and I visited one of Toronto's finest (in my opinion) farmer's markets at Evergreen Brick Works.  The market is open year round and garners many regular visitors visiting vendors offering crafts, organic/sustainable and local meat and produce, baked goods and specialty items.  The fall harvest is plentiful this year and I've fallen in love all over again with root vegetables.  I picked up some amazing squash, sweet potatoes, mixed greens, and a truly stunning selection of mixed roasting veg: beets, onions, potatoes, turnip, baby fennel and purple, orange, white and red carrots.

A number of vendors supplied beef, pork, lamb chicken, venison, elk, fish and seafood.  I decided this week I would try something different and on a whim picked up a beef heart (just under $9).

2.72 lb heart
I'd never tasted beef heart and I didn't know the first thing about preparation or cooking.  When I got home, I perused a few recipes on the internet and found that braising and grilling are the best options.  Since I don't own a grill, I decided to make a stew, perfect for the recent and noticeable drop in temperature these days.  First stop was the liquor store, because you can't make a decent stew without a nice red wine.  It's also a way for me to enjoy the taste of alcohol since these days I'm a total lightweight and have zero tolerance.

Prepping the vegetables
Oven preheated to 325 F

Root veggies were prepped first:

6-8 small - medium carrots chopped
2 medium onions chopped
2 medium potatoes* cubed
3 gloves of garlic, chopped

*Potatoes can be substituted for sweet potatoes or squash.  Potatoes aren't generally "paleo" but I still eat them once in awhile without any issues.

After all the veggies were chopped, we unveiled the mighty heart.  I wasn't sure what to expect but was actually pleasantly surprised at how pretty it was.  Yes, it was pretty.  The surface was smooth and firm and the flesh was very dense; similar to the firmness you would find in raw tuna.  I expected a lot more fat as videos I had viewed how to prepare had ample amounts that needed trimming, so I was pleasantly surprised I didn't have as much work to do.

So pretty!
I removed the small amount of fat from the surface (saved it for some rendering later), opened it up and cut out the small tendons from inside.  The heart was cubed and then dredged in almond flour for searing.

I placed a dutch oven on the stove top on medium heat and added a couple of tablespoons of bacon fat.  The heart cubes were seared on all sides and set aside.  Once all the heart was seared, veggies were tossed in to the dutch oven and stirred.  Beef heart was added back in along with:
Heart Stew: a new winter staple

1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 handful of sun dried tomatoes
1 cup or so* of chicken stock (did not have beef stock, but still worked really well)
1/2 cup* of red wine (your favourite brand)

*These were unmeasured amounts of liquids, but approximately the measurement I was aiming for. I don't normally cook in specific measurements, one reason I find it so difficult to translate my recipes sometimes.

With everything together, I threw it in the oven for 1.5 hours.  After 1 hour I turned the temperature down to 275F.

Garnish with sea salt and fresh ground pepper and enjoy!

The smell of stew permeated the apartment and the results were incredible, both Robert and I really enjoyed it.  The texture is difficult to describe, but has the slight creaminess you would find in beef liver without the strong organ meat taste.  Big beefy flavour!  I will definitely be buying this again; it's incredibly delicious and great if you're on a budget.  If you've been thinking of giving this hard working muscle a try, I highly recommend it!

~photos courtesy of Robert~