05 November 2008

Benito vs. the Thoracic Cavity: Beef Short Ribs & Heart

When I saw beef heart at the market, I got the idea for an odd dish. Most folks would just grimace and move on to the socially acceptable cuts of meat, but I grabbed un corazón de res and a few pounds of short ribs for dinner. Naturally the two go together in the chest, so why not cook them together?

Out of respect for the more squeamish readers I've omitted the pictures of the heart during the trimming phase, but it's a highly educational experience if you've never done it. It's a good four times the size of the human heart but works mostly the same way. And unlike the formaldehyde pickled samples you may have encountered in biology class or med school, this smells like steak. Tastes like it as well--once you trim off all the fat and the various arteries, you're left with something like filet mignon: a perfectly lean, fine grained meat that grills beautifully. I tried a few pieces in this fashion before chopping up the rest for the braised dish.

I started by roasting the short ribs in a hot oven for an hour to render out the fat and get some nice browning. Do this on a deep lipped aluminum sheet pan and it's a lot easier than doing it in a skillet (hat tip to Cook's Illustrated). I heated the roasting pan in the oven and then added a few tablespoons of the rendered beef fat and a standard mirepoix. Then I added the chunks of heart, the drained ribs, a couple of cans of tomato sauce, a can of chicken broth, and half a bottle of Bordeaux (more on that in a bit). I covered it and roasted it in a low oven for a good four or five hours until everything was nice and tender.

The whole thing was rich, velvety, savory, and sinfully beefy. This is a great method of preparing short ribs. The heart is actually milder and more tender than the short ribs, so it's sort of lost in the stew, but the cardiac muscle does provide an interesting textural contrast.

For the braising liquid I used half a bottle of the 2005 Mouton Cadet from Bordeaux. $13, 13% abv. 65% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. The label comes with a quote: "Le vin, il naît, puis il vit, mais point ne meurt, en l'homme il survit." Baron Philippe (1902-1988). This translates as "Wine is born, it lives, but it never dies; in man it survives." There's a dusty nose with elements of black cherry and hints of vanilla and lipstick (I promise I was using a clean glass) with a smooth mouthfeel and restrained berry flavors. 2005 was a banner year for Bordeaux and this is a very economical way to enjoy it.

I was going to open the other bottle to try something different, but I decided to save it for later. That's a 2004 Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna from the Italian island of Sardinia. $15, 12.5% abv. I've written about the Cannonau grape previously and was excited to see a bottle from a different producer. A few days afterward I opened it up to go with grilled pork chops and an apple-garlic-sherry vinegar topping. The wine has an intensely spicy, grape skin aroma to it and a full black cherry flavor. The spice continues on the tongue, black pepper and allspice. Medium tannins, clean finish, a little unusual but certainly strong enough to hold up against the grilled pork.


fredric koeppel said...

where in the hell did you see beef heart in a grocery store? i would venture that you were at one of the hispanic markets. The lipstick description is interesting. I think of that quality as a sort of cherry wax element.

Benito said...

The beef heart came from the big international market at Kirby and Winchester. There's a lot of options there if you want to do snout to tail cooking. It was fresh, not frozen, and stacked between the kidneys and brains.

Anonymous said...

i'm a bit disappointed that you trimmed the pics of the heart carving (i have a thing for forensics, you see) - but delighted in "the two go together in the chest, so why not cook them together". great post!

Benito said...

For anyone that wants to see the open beef heart, with exposed ventricles, click here.