Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Not for the Faint-Hearted - Chicken Hearts

My mum tells me that when she used to cook chickens, she used to eat the gizzards and the heart. Apparently I did too. Unfortunately we have become so prissy about food that these items simply don't come with the pre-wrapped Tesco chickens, and they haven't done for a long time. So, it has been a LONG time since I have even seen chicken gizzards, or any other internal organs for that matter. To be honest, it was only recently that I knew what gizzards were. And, Wikipedia confirms that they are the part that can grind the food with previously-swallowed stones and pass it back to the true stomach, and vice versa.  Sounds delightful yes?

Well, we don't have to worry too much about gizzards today, as today's post is about chicken hearts. Now most people wouldn't even consider cooking with chicken hearts, but please do give them a chance. They taste good; like dark chicken meat, so like the meat you get close to the thigh and leg bone. There is also an ever, ever so slight offaly taste, but this could easily be overcome by the use of spices and herbs if you were concerned. They are also very cheap around 90p a pound. 

What to do with them? Well first of all I washed them and trimmed off any valves. I found the easiest way to do this was just to slice the top off each of the hearts. Unfortunately I don't think that my chicken hearts were free range and there was quite a bit of fat around the hearts, which I also trimmed off. Now I could easily go off on a huge rant about how free range chickens would probably have far less fat on their hearts than a factory reared chicken, but I won't!

I decided to stir fry the hearts, so after slicing them I fried off a diced onion in a hot wok for a couple of minutes, then added the hearts.  Once they had started to brown, I added some chili flakes, chopped ginger and some chopped garlic. Then I added some sliced peppers, mushrooms and aubergine. I also added a bit of water and some soy sauce along the way.

The hearts are quite difficult to cook. I kept testing them to see if they were fully cooked, but even after about 10 minutes the juices were still pink - I'm happy eating anything but poultry and pork rare; for obvious reasons! Eventually I was happy and served the stir fry with some rice. They were good, maybe a little over-cooked (arrrrrrghhhh!), but they weren't chewy and they were still tasty - like I say they taste of dark chicken meat. They also, bizarrely, had the texture of mushrooms.

I will do them again, but maybe next time I'll braise them or cook them slowly in a sauce on the hob. There is this recipe (Potatoes Baked with Chicken Hearts and Mushrooms) where the hearts are cooked in the oven but I'm not too sure about the mayonnaise topping though! There's Chicken Hearts in Tomato Sauce or I could go Japanese and try Chicken Heart Noodle Soup (bet you don't get that in Wagamama).

I am certainly going to persevere with chicken hearts. I think I'm almost there; the taste is good, they just need to be a tad more tender.

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