S I MENTIONED in this Huffington post, my local Shop-Rite boasts a bewildering assortment of offal. As I mentioned in that same post, I am growing wary, even weary, of the offal craze. This stuff isn’t inedible, and some of it is quite nice in its own way, but anyone with a schoolboy’s command of economics can tell you that if a meat goes for under a dollar a pound, there’s probably a reason for it. Even so, I’ve been making my way down the Organs I Haven’t Tried list. I swear when I get to the bottom of it I’ll switch to caviar and ortolan bunting.
This is a cow’s heart. I’ve been meaning to do something with a cow’s heart for weeks, and my associate John B— is always mentioning it as a candidate for pickling. I can’t imagine anything more ostentatiously revolting than a pickled cow’s heart, but it was apparently once so commonplace that Volume 47 (1908) of Good Housekeeping could inform its readers that “[p]ickled beef heart makes a delicious and inexpensive change in the ordinary menu. Its preparation is extremely simple, too. After the heart has been thoroughly boiled in water, pour spiced vinegar over it, and set away to cool. Later slice thin, and serve on a dish garnished with summer savory or parsley.”
Times have changed. A quick search of today’s Good Housekeeping website yields, for instance, a blog post about the perils of having a “good looking gyno.” This may be the only thing on earth more nauseating than pickled beef heart.
The heart shown above was pickled in a spiced vinegar of my own devising. Should you like to try it—and I’ll explain presently why this is a bad idea—the mixture is as follows: one tablespoon coriander seeds, one tablespoon mustard seeds, two broken cinnamon sticks, four bay leaves, a teaspoon of whole cloves, a teaspoon of dill seeds, two teaspoons of black peppercorns, and five cardamom pods. These should be boiled in apple cider vinegar for a good while—a half-hour, say—and then placed in a mason jar with the heart, which will have been boiled for about three hours.
Pickled beef heart is, I’m sad to say, overpowering and nasty. I had a just few bites of it before relegating it to the Rubbermaid. The heart itself is roughly the consistency of tongue meat, but the vinegar overpowers whatever native flavor that meat might have. The sludge of spices makes it worse, if anything. But I was persuaded not to give up on my heart when I stumbled upon a recipe for something called “Coney sauce,” evidently a popular topping for hot dogs in Flint, Michigan. This horrible recipe is what I worked with. It says to grind a half pound of beef heart and a half pound of beef kidney (see above, in all its lobe-y glory), and then to spice it with paprika and chili powder.
I did so. I substituted a mixture of cayenne, ancho, and cumin powder for plain “chili powder,” adding a bit of salt and pepper for good measure.
The result, after cooking in vegetable oil, is not a proper sauce, but I suspect that’s the recipe’s fault. There are a host of more complex recipes out there, and most pictures of “Coney sauce” look far more saucy than what I ended up with, but it did, incredibly, taste great. Here’s a hot dog with Coney sauce and chopped onions—pretty awesome, if I may say so.
Meat, when ground and spiced, is meat. What this exercise taught me is: I should make all my chili out of organ meat, because it costs next to nothing. So after my “Coney sauce” sat around for a few days, I decided to fold it into some proper chili and make a chili dog. To my large quantity of Coney sauce, I added some ground leftover chuck and additional heart strips, two jars of plain pasta sauce, two cans of black beans, an onion, and a ton of cayenne and ancho pepper. The result made for a chili dog so perfect that it would have been an insult to dress it with additional condiments. Behold!