I Heart Tacos

So the other weekend (before I had three simultaneous deadlines) we went to a party. A birthday party, to be exact, at the scene of the Great Oyster Slaughter of aught twelve. This time around, it was more of a pot luck, and I rummaged around in the freezer to figure out what to bring. And I found a beef heart. Problem solved!

Heart is super lean, once you trim all the fat off the outside, and beefier than beef. It’s concentrated essence of cow, and best cooked rare or it gets tough and mineraly tasting. With a sharp knife, you can break a heart down in minutes flat. That’s a country song right there. Those among you who are very observant will notice that the knife is different in this picture. That’s because the other one needed sharpening so I switched. Keeping your knives sharp is step one. I failed that step, but have since taken them all to the shed for some honin’.

Seriously, look at that color. Your steaks wish they looked like that. Once you get the fat off, the inside is pretty much all good. Anything whitish or stringy should go. I like to slice the rest into thin strips to facilitate the quick cooking, whether in a pan or on the grill. In this case, I threaded them onto skewers after they had a therapeutic soak in a Korean-inflected marinade comprised of gochujang, blackcurrant vinegar, maple syrup, and sesame oil.

Once the grill was hot, I threw them all on for a minute or two, flinging them about ineffectually with tongs to get an even char on all sides before the dainty bamboo skewers burned up entirely, leaving twisted strips of heart marooned over the searing, insatiable fire. Much like high school, really.

After the meat was suitably, lasciviously, and elegantly licked by hot tongues of flame, I pulled it all off, using the tongs to strip it from the smoldering splinters formerly known as skewers onto a plate. Then the tortillas followed, receiving both a burny burnish and a flexible foldability from the fire.

It’s a common problem that a good fire outlives the meal it was built to cook, throwing precious BTUs into the atmosphere long after the lid has been closed and the hordes have gathered to eat inside the house. Sometimes I remember this fact, and thus have something else on hand for grilling that will make a future meal better, but this was not one of those times. We were not at home, after all.

The condiments, as sympathetically askew as the marinade, were John’s ramp pesto (harvested that very morning waaay up in the mountains) and our very own smoked salsa from last summer. With one pint left, this stuff is worth more than pure liquid gold. There isn’t a meal I can think of that wouldn’t have its pleasure doubled by a dollop of this magic.

When your condiments are this good–made by hand from stuff that grows right near you–you don’t need no stinkin’ cheese or nothin’. The meat, tortillas, and two sauces contained every possible flavor one could look for in a taco or taco-adjacent application. Best of all, the assertively beefy heart still shone through two pretty pungent accompaniments. The result was well received and enthusiastically eaten by many of the assembled guests, even the renowned squeamitarian in attendance. “Have a heart,” we mocked, until he succumbed.

If you’re a fan of heart, you already know how good this was. But if you’re faint of heart, take heart- it’s so very tasty and easy to cook and eat. We owe the animals that we eat the respect of eating all of them. *Thumps chest with fist.*

9 comments to I Heart Tacos

  • Looks great!! I use to live in southern California, and would go to the taco stands and get heart, tongue and brain tacos. Gotta love the odd bits! Thanks for your posts.

  • We heart tacos too! We typically confit heart in goose fat which turns the rich meat into something extraordinary. Beef heart confit is my six-year-old daughter’s favorite meat!

  • If you soak the skewers in water… I’m just sayin’.

  • John

    I will be trying this soon. Thanks. Rachel’s beef heart confit sounds excellent too and I’ll add that heart makes a great ragu but needs long cooking.

  • I have never had heart, but this makes me want to try it. Tacos seem like the perfect vehicle to try it. Everyone has such great ideas. Thanks.

  • Wow. Thanks for the ideas! I will secretly be doing this sometime in the near future. I say secretly because my family will not speak to me for a long time if they find out I’m feeding them beef heart. Like the time I made fresh pork sausages and included the liver and other internal goodies, but that’s a different story…

  • Remember when I was a bamboo skewer?

  • great minds think alike. we JUST made corned heart sandwiches (will be on the blog at some point – prob.w/ our shitty blog-writing ways recently will be up in 2015). the color of the heart is stunning and the flavor, mmmmm. we first had heart at a yakitori place downtown 5 years ago and loved it. LOVE the idea of putting it in a tortilla. we saved half the heart to grill it so you are an inspiration (yet again).

  • Kourey Mendek

    Problem solving!!

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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