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How to cook a deer heart

3/22/2010

For more food-related blogs from Georgia Pellegrini, check out her website www.GeorgiaPellegini.com.

The Native Americans used to eat the warm heart of their prey in order to inherit their spirit. It was also a way to honor the animal, and use every part of it. So on my deer hunt in the Arkansas Delta a few weeks ago, I decided to "go native."

PHOTO GALLERY

Deer Heart Photos

And I'm glad I did. It was delicious.

And it's good for you.

And all of the veteran hunters looked at me like I was insane. But then they liked it when I made them eat it.

So if you're in the mood to go native, here are some loose guidelines:

Slice down one side of the heart so that it opens flat. You want to square it off as best you can so this may mean cutting it in half so you have two squares.

With a sharp knife, trim off the white membrane from the outside.

Then take your two squares and cut them into strips.

And then cut those strips into small squares.

Marinate the heart squares in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The acids will help tenderize the meat.

Down in the Delta, they have rosemary plants that grow like trees. It's a luxury. I want to roll around in them. But I restrained myself. I had a heart to cook.

Add some sprigs to the marinade, and salt and pepper; don't forget the salt and pepper!

Now, give it a stir and cover them in plastic, pressing down against the meat.

Marinate for at least an hour in the refrigerator, but longer if you'd like.

And wait.

Wait.

Wait.

Wait.

Okay, it's time. Now take the bowl out of the refrigerator.

Get a pan really hot with a tablespoon or so of oil.

Sear the heart squares quickly on both sides, about 1 minute on each. You want them to be medium rare. If you cook them too much they will be rubbery and not nearly as delicious.

In my quest to go native, I also made the kidney and the tenderloin, but that is for another day.

One of the boys said he was saving his bite of heart for last because he liked the taste so much.

I do wonder how many veteran hunters out there have eaten the heart? This was the first for me and it is as good as any of the other offal I adore.

What do you think?

How do you feel about eating the inside bits?

Does it make you cringe? Does it make you salivate? Does the thought make you declare veganism on the spot?

Deer Heart

1 deer heart
1/2 cup balsamic
1/2 cup olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary
Salt and pepper

1. Clean the heart under cold running water until the water runs clear.
2. Cut the heart in half lengthwise to that you have two squares. Trim off the outer white membrane.
3. Cut the squares into strips and the strips into small squares.
4. Marinate the squares in the balsamic, oil, rosemary, and salt and pepper, covered in plastic for at least an hour.
5. Get a pan with a bit of oil and quick sear the heart squares, about 1 minute on each side. You want them to be no more than medium rare. Serve immediately!

Serves 2-4

Editor's note: Georgia's passion for good food began at an early age, on a boulder by the side of a creek as she caught her trout for breakfast. After Wellesley and Harvard -- and a brief stint on Wall Street -- she decided to leave the cubicle world behind and enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in New York City.

Upon graduating at the top of her class, she worked in two of America's best restaurants, Gramercy Tavern and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, as well as in one of the premier destination restaurants in Provence, France, La Chassagnette. It was there that she decided it was time to really get at the heart of where our food comes from and head to the source -- Mother Nature. She bought a shotgun and set her sites on the cutting edge of culinary creativity intent on pushing the boundaries of American gastronomy, from field to stream to table.

Her new book, "Food Heroes: Tales of 16 food artisans preserving tradition" will be coming out this year. She currently roams the world, hunting, tasting good food and meeting the good people who make it. You can read more about her work at www.GeorgiaPellegrini.com.